Posted by: Patricia Salkin | August 24, 2020

LA Appeals Court Holds Grocery/Bait Shop Had a Vested Right, Despite the Related Permits Being Issued in Error

This post was authored by Matthew Loescher, Esq.

St. Martin Parish Government appealed the dismissal of its Petition for Injunctive Relief, with prejudice, in which it sought an injunction against The Wharf on Lake Martin, LLC; Champagne’s Cajun Swamp Tours, LLC; and Bryan Champagne to: prohibit commercial and/or retail ventures and activity at 1076 Rookery Road, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, in violation of the W-2 zoning district, and to remove all structures at that location infringing on the set-back restrictions set forth in the parish zoning ordinance.

The court first noted that although the trial court found that the zoning map was poor and did not include zoning designations, it also stated, “Both of them the sides of the road are in the W-2 zone, so it would have no bearing in this particular case.” Thus, the record indicated that the trial court concluded that the W-2 zone applied to Appellees’ location, which did not permit commercial activity. As such, the court found no manifest error in the trial court’s oral finding that the W-2 zoning designation applied. Nevertheless, the evidence also reflected that Mr. Champagne was issued a permit for a grocery/bait shop. Since a grocery/bait shop would be in contravention of a W-2 zoning district, the court found no manifest error in the trial court’s factual finding that the parish improperly issued Appellees permits to build a commercial building.

The record indicated that Appellees relied on the original permit specifically indicating that it was for a “Grocery/Bait Shop” “Zone No. C” for nearly five years before being notified that the permit was issued improperly. Additionally, the parish president and the Planning and Zoning Coordinator visited Appellees’ location prior to issuing the two 2013 permits. Appellees were also approved for a liquor/beer permit, which was signed by then parish president on June 28, 2011, as well as the “Planning and Zoning Clearance” on June 22, 2011. It was therefore evident that Appellees had multiple interactions with the parish throughout the process of obtaining the necessary permits. Moreover, because Appellees’ business was fully built and operational, the court held that Appellees had acquired a vested right. Accordingly, the court found no manifest error in the trial court’s judgment dismissing St. Martin Parish Government’s petition for an injunction.

St. Martin Parish Government v Champagne, 2020 WL 4811638 (LA App. 8/19/2020)

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