April 24, 2018

Challenge to D.C. Gas Station Law Motors On

Holland & Knight Regulatory Litigation Blog
Paul J. Kiernan | Janene D. Jackson

A moratorium against the conversion or closure of gas stations in the District of Columbia has come under constitutional attack. The property owners have won the first round.

The owners of a gas station site are trying to sell the site but the District's law prohibits owners or operators of gas stations from closing or demolishing those stations. The owners assert that the prohibition substantially hinders their ability to sell the property since potential purchasers would otherwise be locked into a commitment to operate the gas station. The owners seek a declaration that the law is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced against them.

On April 20, 2018, U.S. District Judge Boasberg denied the motion to dismiss filed by the District of Columbia, meaning that the claim of the owners can proceed to the next step. The Court found that the owners of the real property had standing to bring the claim and that the owners had alleged sufficient injury to their economic interests to state a claim. The District of Columbia must now proceed to answer the complaint and seek to defend the law.

Although the constitutionality of the District law is yet to be decided, there's also this curious trap: If an owner wants an exemption from the "no closure" rule, it must apply to the Gas Station Advisory Board for the exemption—but that Board hasn't had any members for over a decade.

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