Posted by: Patricia Salkin | August 13, 2020

MS Appeals Court Upholds Grant of Conditional Use Permit for a Manufactured Home

This post was authored by Matthew Loescher, Esq.

In August 2015, Dennis Ratcliff submitted an application for a conditional use permit to locate a manufactured home on his property in Harrison County. In the application, Ratcliff stated that he and his wife were senior citizens on a fixed income and both disabled. Ratcliff claimed that due to being on a fixed income, they were no longer able to afford their house note and intended to move into a manufactured home. A month later, the Harrison County Planning Commission approved Ratcliff’s application and granted him a conditional use permit to place a manufactured home on his property. Ratcliff and his wife divorced, and consequently, Ratcliff could no longer afford to purchase a manufactured home.

In May 2017, after his permit had expired, Ratcliff was ready to purchase and locate a manufactured home on the property. As such, Ratcliff sought an extension of his conditional use permit, which the Commission granted. Henry Kinney, a Harrison County resident, appealed the Commission’s decision to the Board of Supervisors of Harrison County. The Board approved the appeal and sent the case back the Commission for a new hearing to further develop the record. The Commission again granted Ratcliff an extension of his conditional use permit, and Kinney again appealed to the Board. The Board voted three to one to dismiss the appeal for Kinney’s lack of standing or, in the alternative, deny the appeal. Kinney then appealed the Board’s decision by a bill of exceptions to the circuit court. The court affirmed the Board and subsequently denied Kinney’s motion for a new trial.

On appeal, Kinney argued that the Board exceeded its authority by granting a conditional use permit for a mobile home where it was not permitted and by granting a permit for a manufactured home when the request was for a mobile home. In opposition, the Board claimed that the request was for an extension of the original conditional use permit for a manufactured home and Ratcliff’s usage of the term “mobile home” was merely a scrivener’s error. Specifically, at the Board meeting, Ratcliff testified, “I use the term mobile home. … If I made a mistake on that, I meant manufactured home.” Thus, the court found that contrary to Kinney’s argument, the Board never granted a conditional use permit for a mobile home. Nor did Ratcliff actually intend to place one on the property. The Board’s holding to this claim was therefore affirmed.

Kinney next contended that the Board erred by not making specific findings of fact for each of the required elements for a conditional use permit pursuant to Section 1404.03 of the Harrison County, Mississippi Unified Development Code. The record reflected, however, that the Commission specifically addressed whether the property had water and sewer. Additionally, one of the commissioners went through the neighborhood and found that there were a number of manufactured homes in the proposed area. The Commission also found that the neighborhood where the property was located consisted of half manufactured homes and half conventionally built homes. Moreover, both the Commission and the Board found that “the proposed development is compatible with the neighborhood as described in the application.,” and the Board granted the permit under the condition that it be used exclusively for a manufactured home.

Here, the Board based its decision on “the Commission’s findings, the transcripts from the original and subsequent zoning proceedings, the transcript from the first Board hearing, letters in support of and in opposition to the permit, and numerous photographs.” Additionally, the Board reviewed Ratcliff’s original application and exhibits which addressed many of the enumerated considerations. The Board also based its decision on its own familiarity and common knowledge with the area. Accordingly, the court held that the Board’s decision was supported by substantial evidence, and its decision to grant the conditional use permit was therefore affirmed.

Kinney v Harrison County Board of Supervisors, 2020 WL 4436419 (MS App 7/28/2020)

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