Brian J. Connolly

Associate
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 additionally specializes in the First Amendment and land use issues associated with outdoor sign and advertising regulation, and fair housing matters in local planning and zoning.

Prior to practicing law, Brian was an urban planner in the planning department of Westchester County, New York.  There, Brian reviewed numerous large-scale development proposals for consistency with municipal codes and countywide planning policies.  Additionally, Brian managed the county’s economic and population research functions, analyzing government data and authoring a variety of reports for use by government officials, and the non-profit and private sectors.  Brian has also worked in planning capacities at the federal and municipal government levels.

Brian has served as lead co-author of two books, including 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; and The Michigan Sign Guidebook: The Local Planning and Regulation of Signs (Scenic Michigan 2011), which discusses the legal aspects—particularly the First Amendment issues—relating to outdoor sign and advertising regulation.  In 2014, Brian was selected by the American Bar Association to serve as the editor of the forthcoming book, Local Government, Land Use, and the First Amendment:  Protecting Free Speech and Expression, covering the First Amendment limitations on local governments.  Brian serves on the advisory board of the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute, and he was one of 26 experts in land use law serving as reporters for the national land use law publication Planning & Environmental Law.  He frequently writes on planning and land use law topics, including fair housing, sign regulation, aesthetics, and other matters, and Brian is a regular speaker at conferences on these topics, including at national and state conferences of the American Planning Association, American Bar Association, International Municipal Lawyers Association and Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute.

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 Brian was selected by the American Bar Association to serve as editor of the forthcoming book Local Government, Land Use, and the First Amendment: Protecting Free Speech and Expression.  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 and Chapter Author: Local Government, Land Use, and the First Amendment: Protecting Free Speech and Expression (American Bar Association, forthcoming 2016)
  • 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)

Articles

  • Co-author with Alan C. Weinstein: Sign Regulation After Reed: Suggestions for Coping With Legal Uncertainty, 47 Urb. Law. ___ (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: How the Supreme Court Has Shaped First Amendment Issues for Local Governments: Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Annual Conference of the International Municipal Lawyers Association, Las Vegas, Nevada (October 2015).
  • Co-presenter with Todd Messenger & Derek Holcomb: New Directions for Sign Regulations, Annual Conference of the Colorado Chapter of the American Planning Association, Steamboat Springs, Colorado (October 2015).
  • Co-presenter with David Callies, Donald Elliott & Steven Polin: Housing and Takings: A Look at the Supreme Court’s Inclusive Communities Project and Horne Decisions, American Planning Association Planning & Law Division Webinar (August 2015)
  • Co-presenter with John Baker, Daniel Mandelker & Susan Trevarthen, Understanding Reed v. Town of Gilbert, American Planning Association Planning & Law Division Webinar (July 2015)
  • Co-presenter with John Baker & Susan Trevarthen, The New World of Sign Regulation: Understanding the Supreme Court's Reed v. Town of Gilbert Decision, American Bar Association Webinar (July 2015).
  • Co-presenter with Kenneth Tinkler, James E.A. Slaton, Sorrell E. Negro & Jennifer Bragar: Commercial Real Estate Zoning and Land Use, Fundamentals of Commercial Real Estate series, American Bar Association Webinar (May 2015)
  • Co-presenter with John Baker & Alan Weinstein: Content Neutral Sign Regulation After Reed v. Town of Gilbert, National Conference of the American Planning Association, Seattle, Washington (April 2015)
  • Co-presenter with Heidi Aggeler & Mitzi Barker: What’s Fair in Fair Housing?, National Conference of the American Planning Association, Seattle, Washington (April 2015)
  • Co-presenter with Cameron Artigue & Karen Aviles: Exactions and Impact Fees: Tips for Practitioners in the Post-Koontz Era, Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute Annual Conference, Denver, Colorado (March 2015)
  • Co-presenter with John Baker & Susan Trevarthen: Content Neutrality at the U.S. Supreme Court: A Reed v. Town of Gilbert Update and Oral Argument Analysis, American Bar Association Webinar (January 2015)
  • Presenter: Exactions in Practice, National CLE Conference, Vail, Colorado (January 2015)
  • Presenter: Federal Fair Housing Act and Group Homes, Tom Ragonetti’s 20th Annual Land Use Law Conference, Denver, Colorado (December 2014)
  • Co-presenter with Don Elliott, FAICP: Fair Housing, Affordable Housing, and Local Planning and Zoning: Understanding the Obligations and Reducing Your Community’s Legal Risk, Planning & Law Division Webinar (November 2014)
  • Co-speaker with Andrew Firestine & Marcus McAskin: Application Malfunction Junction: Making the Process Work (Better) for Planners and Developers, Colorado Chapter of the American Planning Association Conference, Crested Butte, Colorado (October 2014)
  • Co-speaker with Don Elliott, FAICP & Heidi Aggeler: Watch Out: The Feds Are Paying More Attention to Fair Housing!  Colorado Chapter of the American Planning Association Conference, Crested Butte, Colorado (October 2014)
  • Co-presenter with Steven Polin, Daniel Mandelker & Dwight Merriam: Planning and Siting Group Homes: What Advocates, Local Governments and Neighbors Need to Know, American Bar Association Webinar (June 2014)
  • Co-speaker with Alan Weinstein & Randal Morrison: Coming To Grips With Content Neutrality, National Conference of the American Planning Association, Atlanta, Georgia (April 2014)
  • Co-speaker with Don Elliott, FAICP & Mary Kay Peck, FAICP: Can Planners and Developers Learn to Get Along Better?  National Conference of the American Planning Association, Atlanta, Georgia (April 2014)
  • Co-speaker with Don Elliott, FAICP: Understanding and Navigating the Contemporary Fair Housing Challenge, National Conference of the American Planning Association, Atlanta, Georgia (April 2014)
  • Co-presenter with David Hickey, Kathryn Hurd, Dawn Jourdan & Alan Weinstein: Three Approaches To The Regulation of On-Premises Signs, American Bar Association Webinar (March 2014)
  • Co-presenter with Mary Kay Peck & Dominic Mauriello: Getting To Kum Ba Yah in the Development Process, Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute Annual Conference, Denver, Colorado (March 2014)
  • Co-presenter with Don Elliott, FAICP: Understanding and Navigating the Contemporary Fair Housing Challenge, Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute Annual Conference, Denver, Colorado (March 2014)
  • Co-presenter with J. Thomas Macdonald, Bill Kyriagis & Bryan Treu: When It All Goes Wrong, Dynamics of the Land Use Case Workshop, Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute Annual Conference, Denver, Colorado (March 2014)
  • Presenter: The Supreme Court’s Takings Cases of 2013, National CLE Conference, Vail, Colorado (January 2014)
  • Speaker: New Developments in the Federal Fair Housing Act, Tom Ragonetti’s 19th Annual Land Use Law Conference, Denver, Colorado (November 2013)
  • Co-speaker with Stefanie Sommers & Fred Jarman: Zoning for Persons With Disabilities, Colorado Chapter of the American Planning Association Conference, Vail, Colorado (October 2013)
  • Co-speaker with Aaron Cook, Steven G. Polin & Roger Waldon: Zoning for Group Homes, National Conference of the American Planning Association, Chicago, Illinois (April 2013)
  • Co-speaker with Mark A. Wyckoff: Sign Regulation in Michigan, training sessions for Michigan municipal officials and attorneys, various locations in Mich. (Jan. 2012-Jan. 2013)
  • Speaker: Fair Housing Law in Michigan, Collaborative Fair Housing Conference, East Lansing, Mich. (Nov. 2012)
  • Co-speaker with Randal R. Morrison & Alan C. Weinstein: New Signs, New Battles: the Modern Constitutional Challenges in Sign Regulation, National Conference of the American Planning Association, Los Angeles, California (April 2012)
  • Co-presenter with Mark A. Wyckoff: Sign Regulation in Michigan, Annual meeting of the Michigan Association of Municipal Attorneys, Grand Rapids, Mich. (Oct. 2011)
  • Speaker: GIS and the Census, Gallatin School of Individualized Study, New York University, New York, N.Y. (Mar. 2009)

Awards & Involvement

  • Super Lawyers Rising Star: Land Use and Zoning (2016)
  • Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute: Board Member
  • 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)