Hignell-Stark v. The City of New Orleans: A Ruling Impacting Small Business Property Owners with Short Term Rentals



For small business owners, navigating the complex world of real estate law is an essential part of securing a location and ensuring the success of their ventures. One recent case that has significant implications for small business clients is Hignell-Stark v. The City of New Orleans. This landmark ruling, handed down by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in 2022, sheds light on the interplay between property rights, zoning regulations, and the balance between public interest and individual rights. Specifically, it impacts small businesses with VRBO or Airbnb properties. In this blog post, we will explore the key aspects of Hignell-Stark v. The City of New Orleans and discuss how it affects small business owners in their real estate endeavors.

Case Background

Hignell-Stark v. The City of New Orleans centers around a dispute between small business property owners and the city over zoning regulations. The plaintiffs, who own a commercial property in a historic neighborhood of New Orleans, aimed to redevelop their property for mixed-use purposes. However, their zoning application was denied by the city, citing preservation concerns and the need to maintain the neighborhood’s historical character.

Key Arguments

The case revolves around the clash between small business owners’ rights to develop their property and the authority of the city to regulate land use for the public welfare. The plaintiffs argued that the denial of their zoning application constituted an unconstitutional taking of their property without just compensation, as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. They contended that the city could achieve its preservation goals while still respecting their property rights.

City officials, on the other hand, maintained that the zoning denial was a reasonable exercise of their authority to preserve the historical and cultural integrity of the neighborhood. They argued that the city had a legitimate interest in maintaining the area’s character and that the denial did not infringe upon the property owners’ rights.

Court’s Decision

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of the City of New Orleans in this case. The court held that the zoning denial did not amount to a regulatory taking and did not require just compensation. It determined that the city’s preservation objectives and exercise of land use authority fell within the scope of its police power, as long as it served a legitimate public purpose and was not arbitrary or discriminatory.

Implications for Small Business Owners

Hignell-Stark v. The City of New Orleans carries significant implications for small business owners and their real estate endeavors. The ruling reinforces the authority of local governments to regulate land use and underscores the importance of preserving historical districts and the unique character of neighborhoods, even if it means restricting property rights.

For small business clients, it is essential to be aware that their rights to develop their property are not absolute, and they must navigate zoning regulations with caution. This case serves as a reminder that local authorities may prioritize preservation objectives, which can lead to stricter zoning restrictions that may impact their business plans. Small business owners should consult with experienced real estate professionals and legal advisors to ensure compliance with zoning regulations and explore alternative avenues for property development.


Hignell-Stark v. The City of New Orleans is a significant ruling that small business owners need to consider when dealing with real estate matters. While it highlights the importance of preserving historical and cultural neighborhoods, it also emphasizes the need for small business owners to understand the constraints of zoning regulations. By staying informed, seeking professional guidance, and exploring alternative solutions, small business owners can navigate the intricacies of real estate law and secure properties that align with their entrepreneurial aspirations.

Attorneys focused on real estate law

Steve North

Morgan Livingston

Attorneys focused on business law

Robert Baldwin

Adam Cossey

Jason Smith