The St. Tammany Parish Council (“Council”) began a comprehensive rezoning of all unincorporated areas of St. Tammany Parish, and established a Special Zoning Commission (“Zoning Commission”) to make recommendations to the Council on all such properties. Mr. Goux, through his counsel, issued a written request to St. Tammany Parish Government (“the Parish”) to have the 36.6 acres he owned zoned HC–3. The Zoning Commission recommended that the 36.6 acres be rezoned HC–3 pursuant to the comprehensive rezoning plan, subject to a portion of the 36.6 acres measuring 75′ in depth from South to North running the entire length of the property, parallel to Brewster Road, from East to West, being rezoned A–3. Parish staff erred when translating the action taken by the Council to the Parish Zoning map by erroneously identifying the westernmost 10 acres of Mr. Goux’s property on the Parish zoning map as being zoned CB–1. After considering the pleas from the public, and in direct opposition to its own legal counsel’s advice, the Zoning Commission denied a motion to approve the change in zoning for the 10 acres from CB–1 to HC–3. Goux then appealed the trial court’s dismissal of his writ of mandamus directing parish to correct its mapping error so that parish zoning map accurately reflected the zoning for his property.
The appeals court first noted that the remedy of mandamus is not available to command performance of an act that contains any element of discretion, however slight, and may only Issue to compel the performance of a ministerial duty required by law. The trial court found that any change to the Parish zoning map would be considered a modification, requiring the introduction of an ordinance and an affirmative vote by the Council. This was not a zoning change, however, because the Parish admitted in its answer to Goux’s petition for writ of mandamus that pursuant to Ordinance C.S. No. 09–2116, the 36.6 acres in its entirety was zoned HC–3 by the Council and that “Parish staff erred when performing its ministerial duty of translating the action taken by the Council, pursuant to the Ordinance, to the Parish zoning map.” Therefore, a writ of mandamus was appropriate, since the requested action by Goux was simply a ministerial duty that Mr. Fontenot was required to perform pursuant to his duties as Director of Planning and Permits for the Parish. Accordingly, the court held that the trial court abused its discretion, and granted an order that a writ of mandamus issue ordering the Parish to withdraw the rezoning process previously commenced on the 10 acres and to correct the mapping error on the Parish zoning map to reflect the entirety of Mr. Goux’s 36–6 acres, including the 10 acres, as being zoned HC–3.
Goux v St. Tammany Parish Government, 2014 WL 5436043 (LA App. 10/24/2014)
The opinion can be accessed at: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/la-court-of-appeal/1681870.html