Posted by: Patricia Salkin | February 1, 2018

MS Supreme Court Upholds Reversal of City Council’s Decision to Rezone Property for Used Auto Sales Business

Hogan filed an application requesting that his property be rezoned from “Old Capital Green” to “General Commercial District” for the purpose of allowing the operation of a used auto sales business on the premises. The Jackson City Council passed an ordinance rezoning this property. Ben Allen, individually and in his capacity as President of Downtown Jackson Partners, Inc., filed a bill of exceptions in the Circuit Court of Hinds County, which sought a reversal of the City Council’s decision to rezone the property. The circuit court reversed the Jackson City Council’s decision, and the City appealed.
On appeal, the City contended that the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because “no proper and signed” bill of exceptions was filed as required by Section 11–51–75, and that Allen’s failure to file a valid bill of exceptions deprived the circuit court of subject matter jurisdiction. After reviewing the relevant legislative history, the court found that the Legislature never intended the signature requirement to be a jurisdictional prerequisite. Thus, the court concluded that although the bill of exceptions was a jurisdictional requirement for the circuit court to hear an appeal, imperfections in it speak to the adequacy of the record to decide the excepted issues rather than to the authority of the court to hear the appeal.
The City next alleged that Allen, as President of Downtown Jackson Partners, lacked standing to bring an appeal because he was not a “person aggrieved”, since Downtown Jackson Partners did not own, or have an interest in, property affected by the rezoning of the subject property. The record indicated that the subject property was located in the Old Capitol Green Mixed Use District, and under Subsection 708.03.04 of the City’s Zoning Ordinance, Downtown Jackson Partners had a direct role in regulating the development of the Old Capitol Green Mixed Use District. Allen claimed that Downtown Jackson Partners would be negatively impacted by the rezoning decision because the subject property would no longer be classified as Old Capitol Green Mixed Use District. As such, Downtown Jackson Partners would no longer be able to ensure that the property adhered to the Old Capitol Green Sustainable Design Guidelines and the Old Capitol Green Master Plan as provided in Subsection 708.03.04. The court therefore found that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in finding that Allen, in his capacity as President of Downtown Jackson Partners, had standing.
Finally, the City argued that the property owner and lessor, who requested the rezoning, had a basic due process right to be joined or at least to have sufficient notice of the appeal. However, since the City failed to raise the due process argument in the circuit court, it was barred from raising the argument for the first time on appeal. Nevertheless, the court found this argument would still fail as the record indicated no effort on the City’s behalf to ensure that the property owner and lessor received notice of Allen’s appeal to the circuit court. Accordingly, the court affirmed the circuit court’s order reversing the City Council’s decision.
City of Jackson v Allen, 2018 WL 654055 (MS 2/1/2018)

This post was authored by Matthew Loeser, Esq.

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