Posted by: Patricia Salkin | June 19, 2015

MS Supreme Court Holds City’s Interpretation of Non-Conforming Use Ordinance to Apply on a Lot-By-Lot Basis within Mobile-Home Park was Arbitrary and Capricious

In this case, Cleveland Mobile Home Community has been operating in Rankin County since the 1950s. It includes spaces for 138 mobile homes and seventeen campers or recreational vehicles, and the spaces are rented to tenants. When the City of Richland incorporated in 1975, the mobile-home park became part of the City and was zoned “I–1, Light Industrial Zoning.” The City’s ordinances prohibited industrial property being used for residential purposes. Thus, use of the property as a mobile-home park was a nonconforming use, which under city ordinance, was allowed “to continue until they are removed” but the “survival” of the nonconformity is not encouraged. The Rankin County Circuit Court upheld the City’s decision to enforce the ordinance, and Cleveland MHC appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed, and the City petitioned the Court for certiorari, which was granted.

At the outset, the court determined that while the individual structures on the property were nonconformities in themselves, they make up parts of the whole. Therefore, it held that the Court of Appeals correctly determined that the nonconforming use related to the mobile-home park as a whole, not to individual lots. The City’s resolution would deprive Cleveland MHC of its constitutional right to enjoy its property, as the resolution effectively would destroy the mobile-home park-as well as Cleveland MHC’s investment-by attrition. Furthermore, since 1975, the City has allowed mobile homes to be moved on and off the property, and the City has not interpreted or enforced the ordinance on a lot-by-lot basis. The decision to do so now seemed to be without reason and implied a disregard for the surrounding facts and settled controlling principles. Accordingly, the court affirmed the holding of the Court of Appeals that the zoning decision was arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory, and beyond the legal authority of the City Board.

Cleveland MHC, LLC v City of Richland, 2015 WL 2250376 (MS 5/14/2015)

The opinion can be accessed at: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ms-supreme-court/1701083.html


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