Posted by: Patricia Salkin | April 17, 2016

W VA Supreme Court Holds Town Can Restrict New Mobile Homes and House Trailers to Existing Mobile Home Parks

The Town of Granville, West Virginia has an ordinance limiting new mobile homes and house trailers to existing mobile home parks. Russell and Smith (collectively “Russell”), wished to place a mobile home on their property, they requested a variance, which was denied. Russell appealed. The Circuit Court found the Town had authority under W. VA Code § 8–12–5(30) [2012] to adopt an ordinance regulating the placement of mobile homes and house trailers.

Upon review, the State Supreme Court affirmed finding the statute constitutional and upholding the Town’s action as within its authority when it adopted an ordinance restricting new mobile homes and house trailers to existing mobile home parks. Because the Town did not enact “residential design standards,” West Virginia Code § 8A–11–1 did not apply to the case.

Russell had contended that another ordinance, W Va.Code § 8A–11–1(c), meant mobile homes and house trailers were permitted everywhere site-built homes are permitted. According to this interpretation, West Virginia Code § 8A–11–1 impliedly repealed West Virginia Code § 8–12–5(30) because the two statutes were irreconcilable, and West Virginia Code § 8A–11–1 was enacted after West Virginia Code § 8–12–5(30). Further, that because West Virginia Code § 8–12–5(30) was no longer in effect, the Town was without authority to adopt an ordinance regulating the placement of mobile homes and house trailers. By contrast, the Town contended West Virginia Code § 8–12–5(30) remained in effect and the Town had authority under it to regulate the placement of mobile homes and house trailers. The Town further asserted West Virginia Code § 8A–11–1 did not apply because the statute was limited to “residential design standards.”

The court noted that the issue was whether West Virginia Code § 8A–11–1 impliedly repealed West Virginia Code § 8–12–5(30)’s grant of authority to regulate the placement of mobile homes and house trailers. In assessing the issue, the court noted “repeal by implication is not favored in law.” The implication of repeal must be “clear, necessary, irresistible, and free from reasonable doubt.” “To repeal a statute by implication there must be such positive repugnancy between the provisions of the new statute and the old statute that they can not stand together or be consistently reconciled.” West Virginia Code § 8A–11–1 was limited to “residential design standards.” While the statute provided no definition for “residential design standards” significance and effect must be given to every section, clause, word or part of the statute. “In the construction of a legislative enactment, the intention of the legislature is to be determined, not from any single part, provision, section, sentence, phrase, or word, but rather from a general construction of the act or statute in its entirety.” Chapter 8A of the West Virginia Code encompasses differing types of land use planning ordinances. It listed “prohibiting specific land uses” separately from “establishing design standards and site plan approval procedures.” Thus, proscribing permitted uses of land was necessarily different from adopting design standards, because an interpretation of a statutory provision, which renders it a “mere repetition”, must be rejected.

Likewise, the Court noted that local governments may regulate “the height, area, bulk, use and architectural features of buildings, including reasonable exterior architectural features and reasonable aesthetic standards for factory-built homes,” so long as the “process and standards” for such regulations are no more strict than those for site-built homes. Clearly, the term “residential design standard,” as used in West Virginia Code § 8A–11–1, pertained to the minimum standards in terms of architecture, aesthetics, size, etc., to which permitted uses must adhere. Where mobile homes and trailers are permitted, West Virginia Code § 8A–11–1 prohibits local governments from applying one design standard to site-built homes and another, more stringent standard, to mobile homes. However, the statute did not say or imply mobile homes and house trailers must be a permitted use of land everywhere site-built homes are permitted. Russell’s argument contradicted the Legislature’s intent to provide municipalities and counties “flexibility when authorizing land development and use.” By contrast, West Virginia Code § 8–12–5(30)’s plain terms authorize municipalities to proscribe permitted uses of land to regulate the placement of mobile homes and house trailers.

The court concluded West Virginia Code § 8–12–5(30) and West Virginia Code § 8A–11–1 implicated two different types of land use planning ordinances. Thus, the two statutes were not irreconcilable, and West Virginia Code § 8–12–5(30) was not impliedly repealed. Here, West Virginia Code § 8–12–5(30) remained in effect granting authority to municipalities to regulate the placement of mobile homes and house trailers.

Russell v Town of Granville, 2016 WL 1098983 (W Va 3/15/2016)

 


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