Posted by: Patricia Salkin | June 16, 2016

SC Appeals Court Finds Entire Building Constituted “Stable” Within Meaning of Special Use Exception

Robert R. Knoth owns and operates Carolina Polo & Carriage Company (Carolina Polo), one of five franchised horse carriage tour businesses in Charleston, South Carolina. Knoth operated his business at a location at 45 Pinckney Street. Knoth placed the property title in the name of Arkay, of which he was the sole member. At the time of Arkay’s purchase, the 45 Pinckney Street building no longer qualified as a nonconforming use because it was not used as a horse stable for more than three years between 2009 and 2013. Accordingly, in March 2013, Arkay applied for a special use exception to operate a stable at 45 Pinckney Street—a property zoned for general business—to house Carolina Polo’s carriage horses. In this case, the City of Charleston, the City of Charleston Board of Zoning Appeals, the Andrew Pinckney Inn, and Michael A. Molony appealed the circuit court’s reversal of the Board’s denial of Arkay, LLC’s application for a special use exception to operate a carriage horse stable.

On appeal, Appellants argued the circuit court erred in finding the special use exception ordinance described a stable as a use rather than a physical structure; in doing so, they argued the court failed to reconcile and construe the zoning and tourism ordinances in a consistent manner. Here, section 29–212 of the City of Charleston Code of Ordinances (2015) specifically focused on the management of carriage horse businesses and differentiates between stables and stalls. Subsection 29–212(b)(12) defined a stable as “the barn where the animals are kept.” However, section 29–212(b)(13) defines stall as the “individual space within the barn where each animal is kept.” The court therefore concluded that stalls were a smaller component of the larger entity that is the stable. Because the building that would keep the horses encompassed the entire lot, the court found that it was a barn for purposes of the ordinance.

The court also noted that the purpose of the various requirements of section 54–206(p) was to protect the health and safety of city patrons and carriage horses, while distancing the unwelcome elements of a barn, including noise, odors, waste, drainage, and pests from residential areas. Finding that limiting the application of the ordinance to just the stalls would yield absurd results, the court determined that the Council intended to apply the 100–foot separation requirement in subsection 54–206(p)(1) to a physical structure operating as a stable—such as the building at 45 Pinckney Street—and not merely to stalls that house the horses. Furthermore, Arkay’s proposed HPR for 45 Pinckney Street did not change the status of the building as a stable because it did not vertically subdivide the building itself. Accordingly, the circuit court erred in reversing the Board’s denial of Arkay’s application for a special use exception.

Arkay, LLC v City of Charleston, 2016 WL 3573147 (SC App. 6/29/2016)

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