Posted by: Patricia Salkin | April 26, 2018

TN Appeals Court Upholds Special Use Permit for Historic Home Events that Allowed Both Indoor and Outdoor Events

This post was authored by Amy Lavine, Esq.

An opinion issued in April by the Tennessee Court of Appeals addressed the special exception requirements for “historic home events.” The court ultimately affirmed a permit that had been granted for historic home events at a property known as East Ivy Mansion. Because a brick wall was attached to the mansion and surrounded the property’s grounds, the court determined that outdoor events held inside the brick wall were within a historic structure and therefore were permissible under the historic home events special exception. Goodwyn v. Bd. of Zoning Appeals, 2018 Tenn. App. LEXIS 226, 2018 WL 1976096 (4/26/18).

East Ivy Mansion received a special exception for historic home events from the Nashville board of zoning appeals in 2013. When it returned to the board in 2015 to renew its permit, testimony and comments were offered from many residents, both for and against the its request to continue holding historic home events. Based on the hearing and other evidence in the record, the board decided approved the application. Goodwyn, a nearby property owner, then appealed, challenging in particular the board’s approval of outdoor events held on the Mansion’s grounds.

The issue before the court was whether the board exceeded its authority by allowing outdoor events as part of East Ivy Mansion’s historic home events permit. The regulations pertaining to historic home events were contained in the section of the zoning ordinance dealing with residential special exceptions, and they included conditions relating to various issues such as lot size, parking, and the frequency of events. As relevant to this case, however, the ordinance also specified that events had to “be within a historically significant structure, as determined by the historic zoning commission.” Goodwyn alleged that the permit violated this condition by allowing events on the mansion’s grounds, which he contended were not “within a historically significant structure.” The board, on the other hand, determined that outdoor events at East Ivy Mansion were still “within a historically significant structure” because a brick wall attached to the mansion and encompassed the grounds, thereby making them part of the historical structure. The board also found that hosting outdoor events on the property’s grounds was “customary, incidental and subordinate to the special exception.”

The court agreed with the board’s interpretation of the historic home events regulations and found that its approval of East Ivy Mansion’s permit request was reasonable and based on substantial evidence. Although the mansion was the only historically significant structure on the property, the court found no reason to disturb the board’s finding that the outdoor area encompassed within the brick wall had become part of the historic structure, regardless of whether it had any historic significant of its own. As the court explained: “If the wall is considered a part of the home, then it logically follows that the space inside of/enclosed by the wall is within the historically significant structure.” The board’s decision on this issue was also based on substantial evidence; in particular, an official from the historic zoning commission testified at the hearing and established that “things attached to or contiguous with the dwelling should be considered a part of the historical structure.”

Goodwyn also claimed that the trial court had improperly relied on the board’s rehearing proceedings because they took place after he had already been granted a writ of certiorari to review the board’s initial decision. He relied on caselaw that cautioned against simultaneous administrative and judicial proceedings, due to “the dangers of inconsistency and duplication of effort,” but the court found that these concerns were not implicated in this case. First, the board had reached the same decision on rehearing as it had in its initial review, and second, while the writ of certiorari may have issued following the board’s initial decision, it wasn’t until several months after the board’s rehearing had concluded that the trial court began its review. The court thus found no reversible error with respect to the trial court’s consideration of the rehearing proceedings.

Goodwyn v. Bd. of Zoning Appeals,  2018 WL 1976096 (TN App. 4/26/18)

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