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Brian J. Connolly

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Phone
303.575.7589
Email
bconnolly@ottenjohnson.com
Assistant

Brittany Frysinger, 303.575.7543

Overview

Brian Connolly represents public- and private-sector clients in zoning, planning, development entitlements, and other complex regulatory matters. His practice encompasses a broad range of land use issues, including planned-unit developments, development agreements, and private covenants and restrictions. He also represents clients in land use and zoning litigation, initiatives and referenda associated with land use approvals, and real estate transactions. Brian has built a national reputation for his work on First Amendment issues related to local government regulation – including signs and outdoor advertising and other free speak issues – as well as fair housing matters in local planning and zoning, particularly in the area of housing for people with disabilities. In addition to representing clients in these areas, Brian serves as an expert witness in cases involving these and other land use topics.

In the land use context, Brian helps clients identify and navigate the complex local, state and federal regulations impacting their projects. Brian handles zoning compliance matters, rezoning requests and appeals, protection of vested rights, subdivisions and site plans, annexations, and variance matters. When necessary, Brian utilizes litigation and alternative dispute resolution channels to negotiate a positive outcome for clients. His clients include landowners and developers, across the commercial, residential and industrial sectors. He also counsels equity investors and lenders as they evaluate investments, and he regularly represents local governments in a variety of matters.

Brian is a frequent writer and speaker on land use law topics at regional and national conferences. He serves on the advisory board of the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute and is the Chair-Elect of the American Planning Association’s Planning and Law Division. Brian has served as the editor or co-author of three books addressing land use law topics, including the planning and local zoning issues associated with group homes for people with disabilities, and First Amendment issues associated with signs and advertising. 

In addition to his work at the firm, Brian is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Colorado School of Law in Boulder, where he teaches Land Use Planning. Before practicing law, Brian was an urban planner in the planning department of Westchester County, New York. He also worked in planning capacities at the federal and municipal government levels.

Brian is the chair of the firm’s Marketing & Business Development Committee and currently serves on the firm's Technology and Values Committees.

Specialty practices: Sign Regulation & First Amendment; Land Use Regulation and Fair Housing

Practice Areas

Industries Served

Projects

Publications

Books

  • Editor: Local Government, Land Use, and the First Amendment: Protecting Free Speech and Expression (American Bar Association, 2017)
  • Co-author with Dwight H. Merriam: Group Homes: Strategies for Effective and Defensible Planning and Regulation (American Bar Association, 2014)
  • Co-author: Michigan Sign Guidebook: The Local Planning and Regulation of Signs (Scenic Michigan, 2012)

Book Chapters

  • Brian J. Connolly et al, Zoning, and Donald L. Elliott, ed., Colorado Land Planning and Development Law (Colorado Bar Association, 2018)
  • Chapter Author: Government Regulation of Art and Architecture, in Brian J. Connolly, Ed., Local Government, Land Use, and the First Amendment:  Protecting Free Speech and Expression (American Bar Association, 2017)

Articles

  • Brian J. Connolly, Reed, Rembrandt, and Wright:  Free Speech Considerations in Zoning Regulation of Art and Architecture, ZONING & PLANNING L. REP. (Vol. 41, No. 11, Dec. 2018).
  • Brian J. Connolly & David A. Brewster, Takings Decision to be Reversed?, PLANNING (Vol. 84, No. 11, Dec. 2018).
  • Brian J. Connolly, J. Thomas Macdonald & Chelsea M. Marx, Down With Speech Regulation?  Assessing the Legal and Practical Implications of Janus and National Institute of Family & Life Advocates for States and Local Governments, STATE & LOCAL LAW NEWS (Vol. 42, No. 1, Fall 2018).
  • Brian J. Connolly, Understanding the First Amendment Limitations on Government Regulation of Artwork, STATE & LOCAL LAW NEWS (Vol. 40, No. 2, Winter 2017).
  • Brian J. Connolly, Promise Unfulfilled? Planning, Zoning, and Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, 48 URB. LAW. 785 (2016).
  • Brian J. Connolly & Matthew S. Bender, After Reed, Cities Face New Challenges in Addressing Homelessness, PLANNING (Vol. 82, No. 9, Oct. 2016).
  • Brian J. Connolly, RMLUI Legal Corner:  Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Assessing the Impact One Year Later, WESTERN PLANNER (Vol. 37, No. 3, Jul./Aug. 2016), at 7.
  • Brian J. Connolly & Alan C. Weinstein, Sign Regulation After Reed: Suggestions for Coping With Legal Uncertainty, 47 URB. LAW. 569 (2015).
  • Author: Supreme Court Upholds ‘Disparate Impact’, Planning (Vol. 81, No. 8, Aug./Sept. 2015), at 12.
  • Author:  U.S. Supreme Court Reiterates First Amendment Requires Content Neutral Sign Regulations, 33 Plan. & Zoning News, no. 9, Jul. 2015, at 2.
  • Co-author with Dwight H. Merriam: Planning and Zoning for Group Homes: Local Government Obligations and Liability Under the Fair Housing Amendments Act, 47 Urb. Law. 225 (2015).
  • Co-author with Dwight H. Merriam: The Promise and Challenge of Planning and Zoning for Group Homes, 38 Zoning & Plan. L. Rep., no. 2, Feb. 2015.
  • Author: Supreme Court Preview: Reed v. Town of Gilbert to Address Content Neutrality in Sign Regulation, 66 Plan. & Envtl. L. 4 (Nov. 2014).
  • Author: Decision To Know: Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency, 66 Plan. & Envtl. L. 10 (Sept. 2014).
  • Author: Supreme Court to Review Validity of ‘Effects Tests’ in Fair Housing Litigation, Colo. Real Estate J., Oct. 16, 2013, at 18C.
  • Author: Cell Tower Case Clarifies Agency Powers, Plan. & Envtl. L., Sept. 2013, at 10.
  • Author: Note, Environmental Aesthetics and Free Speech: Toward a Consistent Content Neutrality Standard for Outdoor Sign Regulation, 2 Mich.J.Envtl. & Admin. L. 185 (2012).

Presentations

  • Presenter:  Sober Living Homes and the Law, Colorado County Attorneys Association Conference, Grand Junction, Colorado (Jun. 2018)
  • Presenter:  Reed:  Practical Strategies for Sign Regulations, 3 Years Later, Arizona State Bar Land Use Update, Tempe, Ariz. (Jun. 2018)
  • Co-presenter with David Callies, Edwin Voss & Don Elliott, After Inclusive Communities, National Conference of the American Planning Association, New Orleans, Louisiana (Apr. 2018)
  • Co-presenter with Sagar Shah, Brandon Marshall & Denise Harris, Opioid/Heroin Crisis and Land Use, National Conference of the American Planning Association, New Orleans, Louisiana (Apr. 2018)
  • Co-presenter with Evelyn Campo, Alexandra Carter & Frank Duke, Drafting Content Neutral Sign Codes, National Conference of the American Planning Association, New Orleans, Louisiana (Apr. 2018)
  • Co-presenter with Don Elliott & Justin Pidot, Relevant Parcel Analysis and Murr:  Understanding the Supreme Court’s Latest Takings Case, Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute Annual Conference, Denver, Colo. (Mar. 2018)
  • Co-presenter and moderator, Fundamentals of Real Estate Law, Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute Annual Conference, Denver, Colo. (Mar. 2018)
  • Presenter:  Zoning, Aesthetics, and the First Amendment:  New Challenges to Old Problems, National CLE Conference, Vail, Colorado (Jan. 2018)
  • Co-presenter with Evan Seeman, and Dan Bolin:  Special Topics in Planning and the First Amendment:  Signs, Adult Businesses, Religious Land Uses, and More, APA Planning and Law Division Webcast (Dec. 2017)
  • Presenter: Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing:  Unfulfilled Promise?, University of Detroit Mercy Law School Symposium, Detroit, Mich. (Nov. 2017)
  • Co-presenter with Jerry Hicks, Tom Macdonald, Kevin O'Neill & Ashley Scott, First Amendment Review:  Public Forum and Government Speech, American Bar Ass'n Webinar (Oct. 2017)
  • Co-presenter with Don Elliott & Marcus McAskin, Takings Law Review:  Murr v. Wisconsin and Relevant Parcel Analysis, Annual Conference of the Colorado Chapter of the American Planning Ass'n, Telluride, Colorado (Oct. 2017)
  • Co-presenter with Eric Heil, Vested Rights and Development Agreements:  What Planners Should Know, Annual Conference of the Colorado Chapter of the American Planning Ass'n, Telluride, Colorado (Oct. 2017)
  • Co-presenter with Tonya Haas-Davidson, The Sobering Truth About Sober Living Homes, Colorado Municipal League Annual Conference, Breckenridge, Colorado (Jun. 2017)
  • Co-presenter with Evan J. Seeman, David S. Silverman & Brian R. Smith, Real Estate Law for Planners, National Conference of the American Planning Ass'n, New York, New York (May 2016)
  • Co-presenter with Alan C. Weinstein, Planners and the Public Realm, National Conference of the American Planning Ass'n, New York, New York (May 2016)
  • Co-presenter with Evan J. Seeman & Noel W. Sterrett, Planning and Zoning for First Amendment-Protected Land Uses, National Conference of the American Planning Ass'n, New York, New York (May 2016)
  • Co-presenter with Alan C. Weinstein, Planners and the Public Realm, National Conference of the American Planning Ass'n, New York, New York (May 2016)
  • Co-presenter with Evan J. Seeman & Noel W. Sterrett, Planning and Zoning for First Amendment-Protected Land Uses, National Conference of the American Planning Ass'n, New York, New York (May 2016)
  • Co-presenter with Anne Castle & Beorn A. Courtney, Homes on the (Front) Range: Residential Development and Assured Water Supply Laws in the American West, American Bar Ass'n, Section of Real Property, Trusts, and Estates Symposium, Denver, Colo. (Apr. 2017)
  • Co-presenter with Cameron Artigue & J. Thomas Macdonald, Land Use and the First Amendment After Reed: A Case Law Update, Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute Annual Conference, Denver, Colo. (Mar. 2017)
  • Co-presenter with Matt Goebel & Richard K. Mahrle, Untangling Construction Defects: Consumer Protection, Affordable Housing & Planning, Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute Annual Conference, Denver, Colo. (Mar. 2017)
  • Co-presenter with Chris Duerksen, Heidi Aggeler & Craig Richardson, Full House: Tuning up Your Land Use Regulations to Promote Housing Choices, Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute Annual Conference, Denver, Colo. (Mar. 2017)
  • Presenter: Speech Regulation in a Post-Reed World, National CLE Conference, Snowmass, Colorado (Jan. 2017)
  • Presenter: Speech Regulation in a Post-Reed World, CLE International Land Use Law Conference, Denver, Colo. (Nov. 2016)
  • Co-presenter with Matt Goebel, What's All the Buzz About Construction Defects?, Annual Conference of the Colorado Chapter of the American Planning Ass'n, Colorado Springs, Colorado (Oct. 2016)
  • Co-presenter with Donald L. Elliott & Todd C. Messenger, Defining "Sign" and Other Pesky Sign Regulation Problems, Annual Conference of the Colorado Chapter of the American Planning Ass'n, Colorado Springs, Colorado (Oct. 2016)
  • Co-presenter with Sorell E. Negro, Kirsten Clanton & Joseph W. Mead, Panhandling & Solicitation:  Understanding the First Amendment Implications, American Bar Ass'n Webinar (Jun. 2016)
  • Co-presenter with Donald L. Elliott, FAICP, The New World of Municipal Sign Codes, Colorado Municipal League Annual Conference, Vail, Colorado (Jun. 2016)
  • Co-presenter with Susan L. Trevarthen, Practical Strategies for Speech Regulation in a Post-Reed World, International Municipal Lawyers Ass'n Mid-Year Seminar, Washington, D.C. (Apr. 2016)
  • Co-presenter with Alan C. Weinstein & Brian R. Smith, Planning As If Black Lives Matter, National Conference of the American Planning Ass'n, Phoenix, Arizona (Apr. 2016)
  • Co-presenter with David L. Callies, FAICP, Edwin P. Voss & Donald L. Elliott, FAICP, Inclusive Communities and the Fair Housing Act, National Conference of the American Planning Ass'n, Phoenix, Arizona (Apr. 2016)
  • Presenter:  Fair Housing in Big Cities, Big City Planning Directors Institute, National Conference of the American Planning Ass'n, Phoenix, Arizona (Apr. 2016)
  • Co-presenter with David L. Callies, FAICP & Justin Pidot, 2015 Supreme Court Review: Signs, Fair Housing, Takings and Clean Air, Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute Annual Conference (Mar. 2016)
  • Co-presenter with Arthur C. Nelson, FAICP & Dwight H. Merriam, FAICP, Housing in the West: Looking Backward and Forward, Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute Annual Conference (Mar. 2016)
  • Co-presenter with Heidi Aggeler & Donald L. Elliott, FAICP, Does HUD Understand Us? Applying Fair Housing Requirements, Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute Annual Conference (Mar. 2016)
  • Co-presenter with John M. Baker, Susan L. Trevarthen, FAICP, Daniel R. Mandelker, FAICP, & Dwight H. Merriam, FAICP, Signs, Int'l Municipal Lawyers Ass'n Webinar (Feb. 2016)
  • Presenter:  What's Going On With Fair and Affordable Housing?  Legal Issues and Analysis, National CLE Conference, Vail, Colorado (Jan. 2016)

Awards & Involvement

  • International Municipal Lawyers Association, Amicus Service Award (2020)
  • Super Lawyers Rising Star (2016-2020)
  • American Planning Association, Planning and Law Division:  Chair-Elect (2019-present), Secretary-Treasurer (2017-2018)
  • National CLE Conference, Environmental Law, Land Use, Energy and Litigation Co-Chair (2018-2019)
  • Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute: Board Member
  • American Bar Association, Section of State and Local Government:  Land Use Committee Vice Chair
  • American Bar Association, Section of State and Local Government, Jefferson B. Fordham "Up and Comer" Award (2018)
  • Downtown Leadership Program, Class of 2014

Jurisdiction

  • State of Colorado
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado
  • U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals
  • U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals 
  • American Planning Association (Planning & Law Division)
  • American Bar Association (State & Local Government Section)
  • Colorado Bar Association
  • Denver Bar Association

Education

  • J.D., University of Michigan, magna cum laude (2012); Order of the Coif; Dean's Scholarship, First-Year Legal Practice Honors recipient; Managing Articles Editor, Michigan Journal of Environmental and Administrative Law
  • Master of Regional Planning, Cornell University, College of Architecture, Art & Planning (2008)
  • B.S., Urban and Regional Studies, Cornell University, College of Architecture, Art & Planning (2007)

Generosity

“I support the Sierra Club Foundation because I believe that it is imperative that we protect our fragile environment for ourselves and future generations.”