Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

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In May 2007, the Medical Center Hospital Authority (“Hospital Authority”) filed an action against the Columbus Board of Tax Assessors and related parties (together, “the Tax Board”) in which it sought a declaration that its leasehold interest in a building located on real property owned by a private entity constituted public property exempt from ad valorem taxation under OCGA 48-5-41 (a) (1). The superior court granted summary judgment to the Hospital Authority, finding that the Hospital Authority’s leasehold interest qualified as “public property,” and was thus exempt from ad valorem property taxation. The Tax Board appealed this decision to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide whether the Court of Appeals erred in determining that two prior bond validation orders conclusively determined, for purposes of OCGA 48-5-41 (a) (1) (A), that the property at issue was “public property” exempt from ad valorem taxation. The Court held that these orders did not conclusively establish that the Hospital Authority’s leasehold interest was “public property” exempt from ad valorem taxes and therefore reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Columbus Board of Tax Assessors v. Medical Center Hospital Authority" on Justia Law

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This case arose from “a long-running battle” that appellant Richard Shelley waged against the Town of Tyrone’s zoning ordinances. Because Shelley failed to exhaust his administrative remedies before seeking relief in the trial court, his as-applied challenges to the zoning ordinances were not ripe for judicial review. The Georgia Supreme Court therefore affirmed the superior court’s order granting Tyrone partial summary judgment on those claims. And because the town enacted a new zoning ordinance, Shelley’s facial challenges to the previous ordinances were moot. The Supreme Court therefore vacated the superior court’s order addressing the merits of those claims and remanded the case with direction to dismiss those claims unless Shelley properly amended his complaint to challenge the ordinance now in effect. View "Shelly v. Town of Tyrone" on Justia Law

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Kammerer Real Estate Holdings, LLC owned a lot on which it wanted to construct an automotive service facility. Kammerer applied for a site development permit. The lot was subject to a zoning condition under the Forsyth County Unified Development Code that certain “open space” on the lot remain undeveloped. The Director of the Forsyth County Department of Planning and Community Development concluded that the proposed construction would not comply with this condition, and so, he refused to issue a site development permit. Kammerer then asked the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners to amend the zoning condition, but the Board declined to do so. At that point, Kammerer filed this lawsuit against the County, the Board, and the Director, alleging that the Director had misconstrued the “open space” condition, and if it actually meant what the Director said it meant, it was unconstitutional in several respects. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The trial court granted the motion in part and denied it in part. Kammerer appealed the dismissal of certain claims, and the defendants cross-appealed the refusal of the trial court to dismiss other claims. The Georgia Supreme Court determined the trial court properly dismissed a claim for attorney fees, but reversed in all other respects, finding the trial court misinterpreted the controlling caselaw that governed this case, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Kammerer Real Estate Holdings, LLC v. Forsyth County Bod. of Comm'rs" on Justia Law

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The Roswell City Council enacted a new Unified Development Code to govern land use issues; the Code included a zoning map. Several Roswell property owners filed a lawsuit to challenge the process by which the City Council enacted the Code. When the superior court ruled against the property owners, they directly appealed. The Court of Appeals dismissed their direct appeal, concluding that their lawsuit was a “zoning case” under Georgia Supreme Court decisions in Trend Development Corp. v. Douglas County, (383 SE2d 123) (1989), and O S Advertising Co. v. Rubin, 482 SE2d 295 (1997) (“Rubin”), and thus required an application for discretionary appeal under OCGA 5-6-35(a)(1). But the Mississippi Supreme Court held that a stand-alone lawsuit challenging an ordinance as facially invalid, unconnected to any individualized determination about a particular property, was not a “zoning case” under Trend and Rubin and did not require an application under OCGA 5-6-35. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Schumacher v. City of Roswell" on Justia Law

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The Stuttering Foundation, Inc. (“Foundation”) leased office space in a commercial development in Glynn County owned by Lucas Properties Holdings III, LLC (“Lucas”). In 2015, Lucas filed an application for rezoning of the property to construct an addition to the rear of one of the existing buildings in the development, the building in which the Foundation leased its office. It also sought approval of a site plan for the proposed construction. Both were approved in March 2016. For various reasons, the Foundation opposed the new development and filed a petition for judicial review of the rezoning application and Site Plan, or in the alternative, for mandamus reversing the County’s approval. Both the County and Lucas filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on its merits. The trial court entered an order granting the County’s motion to dismiss, concluding that the Foundation lacked standing to raise its objections to the rezoning. The Georgia Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that the Foundation demonstrated no right to contest the rezoning decision. Lucas’s motion to dismiss was a nullity and therefore vacated. View "The Stuttering Foundation of America, Inc. v. Glynn County" on Justia Law

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This case involved challenges to the City of Atlanta’s attempted annexation of five areas. Shortly after the Governor approved HB 514 on April 26, 2016, Atlanta received petitions for annexation from five unincorporated areas of Fulton County contiguous to Atlanta. Emelyn Mays and five other individuals (collectively, “Mays”), who represented each of the proposed annexation areas as residents or property owners, filed a petition for declaratory judgment challenging the annexations. The trial court held an evidentiary hearing, and shortly thereafter issued an order granting Mays’s request declaring the annexations null and void on the ground that they were untimely under the terms of HB 514 and thus the Communities were part of South Fulton. In reaching this conclusion, the court expressly rejected Atlanta’s contention that HB 514 unconstitutionally conflicted with the general laws governing annexation by municipalities by preventing Atlanta’s annexation of the Communities as of July 1, 2016. Atlanta appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court. The Supreme Court found the trial court correctly held that the annexations were invalid because at the time they would have become effective, the areas in question were already part of the newly incorporated City of South Fulton and thus ineligible for annexation by Atlanta. Accordingly, the Court affirmed. View "City of Atlanta v. Mays" on Justia Law

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This case centered on the procedure by which a local zoning board’s quasi-judicial decision on a variance request could be appealed to the superior court. Kerley Family Homes, LLC was granted a variance by the City of Cumming’s Board of Zoning Appeals (“BZA”). Neighboring homeowners aggrieved by the variance sought to appeal the BZA’s decision by filing a complaint seeking a writ of mandamus and an injunction with the superior court. The defendants argued that they were entitled to summary judgment against the homeowners because the zoning variance decision was a quasi-judicial decision that could be challenged in the superior court only by a petition for certiorari under OCGA 5-4-1. The Supreme Court concluded they were right, and therefore reversed the trial court’s denial of summary judgment. View "City of Cumming v. Flowers" on Justia Law

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In 1991, the Georgia Supreme Court declared Bartow County’s zoning ordinance to be invalid. Two years later, Bartow County enacted a new zoning ordinance that, among other things, included a provision addressing vested rights for nonconforming use that were acquired during the absence of a valid zoning ordinance. Twenty-five years later, this case required a determination as to whether that 1993 vested-right provision was unconstitutional as applied to Appellant Southern States-Bartow County, Inc. Though the trial court concluded that the zoning provision in question suffered no constitutional infirmity, the Supreme Court disagreed. Because the zoning provision is unconstitutional as applied to Southern States, the Court reversed the judgment of the trial court and remanded for further proceedings. View "Southern States-Bartow County, Inc. v. Riverwood Farm" on Justia Law

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The issue on appeal in this case centered on the potential effects on the territory of school systems and the ownership of school property stemming from the annexation of parts of Fulton County by the City of Atlanta. In 1950, the Georgia General Assembly passed a local constitutional amendment addressing these issues (1950 LCA). In 1950, the independent school system of Atlanta (APS) was part of the City’s municipal government, not a separate political entity. In 1973, however, the General Assembly separated APS from the City’s municipal government by enacting separate charters for the two entities and removing most educational powers and responsibilities from the City government. In 2015, the City initiated this case by filing a declaratory judgment action in which it sought guidance on whether: (1) the City could annex Fulton County property without also expanding the boundaries of APS to cover the newly annexed area; and (2) the City could exercise its own delegated authority to determine if it wanted to expand the boundaries of APS after the City annexed new property. The City argued that HB 1620 (the pertinent legislation) did not properly continue the 1950 LCA, and, as a result, it stood repealed. The Fulton County School District (“FCS”) intervened, then the City moved for summary judgment, APS moved for judgment in its favor on the pleadings, and FCS moved to dismiss the City’s action. The trial court entered a final order denying the City’s motion, granting APS’s motion, and granting FCS’s motion, treating all of them as summary judgment motions. Ultimately, the trial court determined that: (1) the City’s declaratory action, in part, was not barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity; and (2) the 1950 LCA was properly continued by HB 1620. The City appealed the trial court’s ruling that the 1950 LCA was properly continued, and APS has cross-appealed to contend that the trial court erred by not finding that the City’s declaratory judgment action was barred in its entirety by sovereign immunity. Because this matter was not ripe for consideration at the time that the trial court considered the City’s action, the Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s opinion. View "City of Atlanta v. Atlanta Indep. Sch. Sys." on Justia Law

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The City of Waycross (the “City”), situated primarily in Ware County, annexed property in Pierce County (the “County”) in the 1980's. The City constructed a component of its wastewater treatment facility in the annexed area, and entered into service delivery strategy agreements with the County in 1999. The agreements provided that the City would provide water and sewer services in the annexed area; they did not contain an expiration date. The City provided the agreed upon services and collected fees from the users of the services. The fees covered the costs of providing water and sewer services in the annexed area. Residents of the City did not subsidize the costs of the services. In 2015, the legislature passed House Bill 523, which was signed into law effective July 1, 2015, amending the City’s charter so that no portion of the City would “include any territory within the boundaries of Pierce County.” The City brought suit to enjoin enforcement of House Bill 523 and have it declared unconstitutional. The trial court denied interlocutory relief, partly because it determined the City was still authorized to provide water and sewer services to the formerly annexed area. In July 2015, the City notified businesses and homeowners located in the de-annexed area that new, higher user fees would be charged. The County filed a counterclaim alleging that the new fees were arbitrarily higher than fees charged Ware County residents, and therefore violated the Georgia Service Delivery Strategy Act. In August 2015, the City passed a resolution to halt the delivery of water and sewer services in the formerly annexed area. At that point, the County filed an amended counterclaim requesting the City be enjoined from discontinuing its water and sewer services. After a hearing, the trial court granted the County’s request for an interlocutory injunction. Finding no reversible error in the decision to issue an injunction, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment and remanded this matter for further proceedings. View "City of Waycross v. Pierce Cty. Bd. of Commr's" on Justia Law