Brian J. Connolly

Shareholder
Phone
303.575.7589
Email
bconnolly@ottenjohnson.com
Assistant
Margo Brown, 303.575.7579

Overview

Brian Connolly represents public- and private-sector clients in matters relating to zoning, planning, development entitlements and other complex regulatory issues.  Brian’s practice encompasses a broad range of land use matters including zoning compliance, rezonings and other regulatory amendments, planned-unit developments, development agreements, private covenants and restrictions, land use and zoning litigation, initiatives and referenda associated with land use approvals, and real estate transactions.  Brian has received national recognition for his work on First Amendment issues associated with local government regulation, including signs and outdoor advertising, and his work on fair housing matters in local planning and zoning, particularly in the area of housing for people with disabilities.

Prior to practicing law, Brian was an urban planner in the planning department of Westchester County, New York.  Brian also worked in planning capacities at the federal and municipal government levels.

Brian writes and speaks on land use law topics nationally and regionally, and is active in professional organizations.  Brian has served as the editor or co-author of three books, including Local Government, Land Use, and the First Amendment:  Protecting Free Speech and Expression (ABA Publishing 2017) and Group Homes: Strategies for Effective and Defensible Planning and Regulation (ABA Publishing 2014), addressing the planning and local zoning issues associated with group homes for people with disabilities.  Brian serves on the advisory board of the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute, and is the elected Secretary-Treasurer of the American Planning Association’s Planning and Law Division. 

Specialty Practice: Sign Regulation and the First Amendment

Local governments and property owners alike are frequently confronted with challenges relating to outdoor sign and advertising regulation.  In addition to the usual complexities associated with land use regulation, regulations of outdoor signage are subject to limitations imposed by the free speech and expression clauses of the First Amendment to U.S. Constitution (and state corollaries), including requirements relating to content neutrality, overbreadth, vagueness, prior restraint and other issues.  Brian is a nationally-recognized resource on First Amendment sign and billboard regulation issues, and his writing on sign regulation and content neutrality has been cited in briefings before the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2015 case of Reed v. Town of Gilbert.  Brian has authored academic and other articles on sign regulation issues, served as co-author with Mark Wyckoff of The Michigan Sign Guidebook: The Local Planning and Regulation of Signs (Scenic Michigan 2011), and was editor of Local Government, Land Use, and the First Amendment: Protecting Free Speech and Expression (ABA Publishing 2017).  Brian also is a frequent speaker on sign law, including at national conferences of the American Planning Association and nationally-broadcast webinars.  Brian assists both government and private sector clients on signage matters relating to code drafting, permits and approvals, and litigation associated with sign regulation.

Specialty Practice: Land Use Regulation and Fair Housing

The passage of the federal Fair Housing Act in 1968 provided a right to fair housing to large segments of the American population, but the Act, along with state-law equivalents and other federal laws such as the Americans With Disabilities Act, imposes significant liability on local governments and landowners that do not comply with its provisions.  As a planner, Brian worked on housing matters for a local government that came under challenge on fair housing issues, resulting in a settlement that cost the local government in excess of $60 million.  As part of his law practice, Brian continues to work on fair housing issues.  Brian is a frequent speaker at conferences on fair housing matters, and Brian routinely authors articles relating to fair housing and land use law issues.  Brian co-authored, with Dwight Merriam, the book Group Homes: Strategies for Effective and Defensible Planning and Regulation (ABA 2014), which addresses the complex legal, planning, and emotional issues associated with providing housing for people with disabilities.

Brian currently serves on the firm's Technology Committee.

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

  • 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, 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

  • American Bar Association, Section of State and Local Government, Jefferson B. Fordham "Up and Comer" Award (2018)
  • Super Lawyers Rising Star: Land Use and Zoning (2016, 2018)
  • Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute: Board Member
  • American Planning Association, Planning and Law Division:  Secretary-Treasurer
  • American Bar Association, Section of State and Local Government:  Land Use Committee Vice Chair
  • Downtown Leadership Program, Class of 2014

Jurisdiction

  • State of Colorado
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado
  • 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)