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Ramsgate Court Townhome Ass'n v. West Chester Borough

ELR Citation: 33 ELR 20133
Nos. No. 01-2905, 313 F.3d 157/(3d Cir., 12/16/2002)

The court affirms a district court decision that a city's trash collection ordinance did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The ordinance stated that the city would provide trash removal services to all residential property owners except those whose property required more than the equivalent of 6 30-gallon containers of rubbish per week. Under the ordinance, the city does not provide trash removal services to multi-unit condominiums, apartments, or mixed use commercial and apartment buildings. Several owners of condominium complexes, apartment buildings, and mixed use commercial and apartment buildings filed suit challenging the ordinance on Equal Protection Clause grounds. The court first holds that the district court correctly concluded that the owners' equal protection challenge to the ordinance is subject to the rational basis standard of constitutional review. The ordinance does not draw a distinction based on a suspect classification, nor does it implicate a fundamental right. Under the rational basis test, an ordinance is constitutional if it bears a rational relation to some legitimate end. Here, the ordinance's limits on waste removal are based on economic considerations. The city has a finite budget, and trash removal costs money. Although trash removal is beneficial to health and safety, the city is forced to divide its budget among various expenditures. By limiting trash removal the city is able to spend tax dollars elsewhere. Such an economic rationale is a legitimate basis for the ordinance. Moreover, the owners' challenge to the city's refusal to provide services to individual condominiums is not a federal constitutional challenge within the scope of the appeal. The court next holds that the district court did not err in refusing the owners' request for leave to amend their complaint. The owners never filed a motion to amend nor provided the district court with a proposed amendment. The owners' only mention of a request to amend came in the last sentence of its motion to oppose the city's Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion. Such a single sentence, lacking a statement of the grounds for amendment, does not rise to the level of a motion to amend.