Posted by: Patricia Salkin | November 11, 2018

GA Appeals Court Reverses Dismissal of Real Estate Developer’s Mandamus Request in Case Involving Preliminary Subdivision Plat for a Townhouse Development

This post was authored by Matthew Loeser, Esq.

 

Real estate developer The Quarters Decatur, LLC petitioned in superior court for a writ of mandamus to compel the City of Decatur and its planning director, Angela Threadgill, to take action on The Quarters’s application for approval of a preliminary subdivision plat for a townhouse development. The superior court dismissed the petition for failure to state a claim pursuant to OCGA § 9-11-12 (b) (6) and The Quarters appealed.

 

On appeal, the City and Threadgill contended that the ordinance did not impose a 30-day requirement for the Planning Commission to review and make a recommendation regarding a preliminary plat. The court found, however, that plain language of the ordinance set forth a 30-day time frame for action by the Planning Commission, and the petition alleged that events that would trigger this 30-day period had occurred, as The Quarters had submitted a preliminary plat for consideration in compliance with the requirements of the ordinance. While City and Threadgill claimed this delay was not sufficiently long to justify imposition of the extraordinary remedy of mandamus, the court found that this argument went to merits of the claim rather than the propriety of dismissal under OCGA § 9-11-12 (b) (6).

 

The City and Threadgill next claimed the superior court correctly dismissed the petition because The Quarters had other legal remedies that it did not exhaust. Specifically, they alleged that The Quarters could have appealed its objections to Threadgill’s comments regarding the preliminary plat to the Zoning Board of Appeals, and then to the superior court. The court rejected this contention and determined that the language of the “Plat Review Comments—Zoning” document sent by the City’s attorney to The Quarters did not indicate that it was a final decision on the preliminary plat. Moreover, this document stated that the preliminary plat would be subject to “further review” after Threadgill’s comments were addressed. Accordingly, the court held that The Quarters did not fail to exhaust its administrative remedies.

 

The Quarters next contended that the superior court erred in concluding that it lacked vested rights, as it “was and remains entitled to have its preliminary plat reviewed under the code in effect when it was filed.” Here, the court found there could conceivably be evidence of expenditures made by The Quarters or assurances received by The Quarters that could support a conclusion that the City could no longer amend its zoning ordinance to affect The Quarters’s property interest. As such, the court determined it could not find hold at this junction if the allegations of the mandamus petition disclosed with certainty that The Quarters would not be entitled to relief under any state of provable facts asserted in support of its claim that it was entitled to have its plat considered under the former ordinance. Thus the court reversed the judgement in favor of the City and Threadgill.

 

The Quarters of Decatur, LLC v City of Decatur, 2018 WL 5262198 (GA App. 10/23/2018)


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