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.