The Shelby Land Partners, LLC and Alabaster Land Company, LLC, each owned a 50% undivided interest in a 19.4–acre parcel of undeveloped real property located within the municipal limits of the City of Alabaster. In 2004, at the request of Shelby Land, the property was zoned as a “community business district,” permitting only commercial uses. In 2009, Shelby Land petitioned the City to rezone the land to permit multifamily residential use in order to develop a low-income apartment complex for senior citizens on the property. The City Council denied Shelby Land’s rezoning application. Shelby Land and Alabaster Land then brought this action seeking relief from the denial of the rezoning request. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of Shelby Land and Alabaster Land ordering the City and the City Council to rezone the land to permit multifamily residential development, and the City and the members of the City Council appealed.
Although Shelby and Alabaster Land urged the court to consider whether the City’s denial of their rezoning request was “fairly debatable”, the court noted that when reviewing a city’s denial of rezoning petition, it must determine whether the existing zoning classification is substantively valid and bears a reasonable relationship to the promotion of the health, safety, morals, or general welfare of the community before turning to the “fairly debatable” analysis. The mere fact that a proposed new zoning classification is reasonable does not itself invalidate a likewise reasonable existing zoning classification. Because the purposes for which the B–3 zoning classification was adopted in 2004 remained substantially related to the health, safety, morals, and general welfare of the community, the court concluded that the trial court erred in holding the current B–3 zoning of the property had no relationship to the health, safety, morals, or general welfare of the City.
Accordingly, the court held it is not the province of the court to substitute its judgment for that of a legislative body vested with the power to make such decisions. The trial court’s ruling against the City was therefore reversed.
City of Alabaster v Shelby Land Partners, LLC, 148 So.3d 697 (AL 1/24/2014)
The opinion can be accessed at: https://acis.alabama.gov/displaydocs.cfm?no=553082&event=3ZE0LEUEB