Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in South Carolina Supreme Court
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Pickens County, South Carolina sought a contested case hearing in the administrative law court (ALC) to challenge a landfill permit modification issued to MRR Pickens, LLC (MRR) by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). The ALC dismissed the County's challenge, finding the County failed to timely request DHEC to conduct a final review of the decision to issue the permit modification. The court of appeals reversed and remanded to the ALC for further proceedings. After review, the South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals in part, vacated in part, and remanded to the ALC for further proceedings. The Court affirmed the court of appeals' rejection of MRR and DHEC's argument that the County's actual notice of the Permit Modification in December 2015 and January 2016 triggered the fifteen-day limitations period set forth in subsection S.C. Code Ann. sec. 44-1-60(E)(2). Because the ALC found the County's request for final review untimely under subsection 44-1-60(E)(2), the ALC did not rule upon the issue of whether DHEC properly classified the Permit Modification as a minor modification. The court of appeals correctly reversed the ALC on this point when it held the ALC should have determined whether DHEC properly classified the Permit Modification before ruling upon the statutory timeliness of the County's challenge. The ALC expressly refused to make any findings as to whether the County was entitled to notice and as to whether the Permit Modification was major or minor. While the Supreme Court held the ALC erred in not deciding whether the modification was major or minor, it was not for the court of appeals to make these findings of fact; therefore, the Court vacated this portion of the court of appeals' opinion. The Supreme Court also vacated other portions of the opinion that could be construed to make factual findings. The ALC must determine on remand whether DHEC properly classified the Permit Modification as a minor modification. Only after resolving that question can the ALC determine whether the County's request for a contested case hearing was untimely under subsection 44-1-60(E)(2). View "Pickens County v. SCDHEC" on Justia Law

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In consolidated appeals filed by Greenville County, South Carolina, the issue central to the cases involved a zoning dispute between the County and Greenville Bistro, LLC, d/b/a Bucks Racks & Ribs. Greenville Bistro filed suit against the County to enjoin the County from enforcing an ordinance to deny Greenville Bistro's desired method of operating Bucks Racks & Ribs. Citing other ordinances, the County counterclaimed and moved to enjoin Greenville Bistro from operating Bucks as a sexually oriented business. Both appeals concerned the legality of Greenville Bistro operating Bucks as a restaurant with the added feature of scantily clad exotic dancers. The circuit court granted Greenville Bistro's motion for a temporary injunction, and the County appealed. While the County's appeal was pending, another circuit court denied the County's motion for temporary injunctive relief, ruling that in light of the County's appeal it did not have jurisdiction to consider the County's motion. The South Carolina Supreme Court reversed both rulings, dissolved the injunction granted to Greenville Bistro, and held the County was entitled to injunctive relief. The case was remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "Greenville Bistro, LLC. v. Greenville County" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, several Summerville residents and public interest groups (Petitioners) asked the South Carolina Supreme Court to invalidate approval granted by the Town of Summerville Board of Architectural Review (the Board) for construction of a proposed development project (the Project). Petitioners contended the Board violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and various Summerville ordinances. At some point during Petitioners' appeal of the Board's decision, Applegate & Co. (the Developer) decided not to go forward with the Project. Since there remained no actual controversy for the Supreme Court to decide, it vacated the court of appeals' decision and dismissed Petitioners' appeal as moot. View "Croft v. Town of Summerville" on Justia Law

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The issue in this case relates to Captain Sam’s Spit on Kiawah Island, South Carolina. Twice before, the Administrative Law Court (ALC), over the objections of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), granted permits for the construction of an extremely large erosion control device in a critical area. Both times, the South Carolina Supreme Court found the ALC erred. In this third appeal, the Coastal Conservation League raised numerous issues with respect to the approval of another “gargantuan structure” designed to combat the erosive forces carving into the sandy river shoreline, especially along its narrowest point called the "neck," in order to allow a developer to construct a road to facilitate development of fifty houses. DHEC, reversing its prior stance, issued four permits to construct the steel wall, which the ALC upheld. The Supreme Court found the ALC erred in three respects: (1) in accepting DHEC's narrow, formulaic interpretation of whether a permit that indisputably impacts a critical area warrants the more stringent review normally accorded to such structures; (2) in relying on the protection of Beachwalker Park to justify the construction of the entire wall; and (3) in determining the public will benefit from the wall based on purely economic reasons. Accordingly, judgment was reversed. View "SC Coastal Conservation League v. SCDHEC" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from Beaufort County, South Carolina's refusal to issue Grays Hill Baptist Church a construction permit to build a fellowship hall adjacent to its existing sanctuary. The court of appeals reversed the master's order and reinstated the Beaufort County Planning Commission's decision to deny the permit because the Church's 1997 development permit did not include the fellowship hall and had expired. After review, the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed the the court of appeals and ordered Beaufort County to issue the Church a construction permit for the fellowship hall under its original 1997 development permit. The Court found the Planning Commission erred in finding that the Church's original 1997 development permit did not authorize the development of the fellowship hall because the proposed building was clearly indicated in the permit application and plat. "There is no evidence in the record to support the Commission's finding that the original permit only authorized development of the church and that the certificate of compliance closed out the 1997 development permit. Consequently, the County erred in requiring the Church to request a new development permit." View "Grays Hill Baptist Church v. Beaufort County" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, consisting of several citizens groups and neighborhood associations, sought a contested case hearing in the administrative law court (ALC) to challenge the propriety of state environmental authorizations issued by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) for a project relocating and expanding the passenger cruise facility at the Union Pier Terminal (the Terminal) in downtown Charleston. Petitioners contended they had standing to seek this hearing as "affected persons" under section 44-1- 60(G) of the South Carolina Code (2018). The ALC concluded Petitioners did not have standing and granted summary judgment to Respondents. The ALC terminated discovery and also sanctioned Petitioners for requesting a remand to the DHEC Board. The court of appeals affirmed. The South Carolina Supreme Court, however, concluded Petitioners did have standing, and thus reversed the grant of summary judgment and remanded the matter to the ALC for a contested case hearing. View "Preservation Society v. SCDHEC" on Justia Law

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This case concerned accreting land along the South Carolina coast that owned by the Town of Sullivan. Petitioners Nathan and Ettaleah Bluestein and Theodore and Karen Albenesius (collectively, Petitioners) bought property in the Town that abutted the accreting land. Petitioners' properties were once considered oceanfront lots only a short distance from the beach, but due to accretion, the properties were now a substantial distance away. The accreting land was subject to a 1991 deed, which set forth certain rights and responsibilities respecting the condition of the property and the Town's duties concerning upkeep of the land. Petitioners were third party beneficiaries of the 1991 deed. Petitioners argued the 1991 deed mandated the Town keep the vegetation on the land in the same condition as existed in 1991, particularly as to the height of shrubs and vegetation. Conversely, the Town contended the 1991 deed granted it unfettered discretion to allow unchecked growth of the vegetation on the accreting land. The South Carolina Supreme Court determined all parties cherrypicked language from the 1991 deed to support their respective interpretations of the deed. But contrary to the holding of the court of appeals and the trial court's findings, the Supreme Court held the deed was “far from unambiguous;” because the 1991 deed is ambiguous in terms of the Town's maintenance responsibilities, the court of appeals erred in affirming the entry of summary judgment for the Town. As a result, the matter was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Bluestein v. Town of Sullivans Island" on Justia Law

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An industrial park was built in an unincorporated area in Laurens County, South Carolina, between the City of Laurens (Laurens) and the City of Fountain Inn (Fountain Inn). Both municipalities provided natural gas service beyond their respective borders, and each sought to serve the industrial customers in the new industrial park. However, Laurens -through its subsidiary, the Laurens Commission of Public Works (LCPW) - claimed Fountain Inn could not compete for the industrial customers' business because LCPW had established a designated service area and therefore was the sole authorized natural gas provider to the industrial park. Fountain Inn believed the industrial park was not part of a designated service area, and thus LCPW did not have an exclusive right to provide natural gas to customers in the industrial park. In support of its claim, LCPW asserted it had satisfied the requirements of S.C. Code section 5-7-60 (2004) by providing natural gas in the general vicinity for twenty years pursuant to a 1992 boundary line that was informally agreed to by Laurens and Fountain Inn. Agreeing with LCPW that it had properly created a designated service area, the circuit court enjoined Fountain Inn from providing natural gas service to the industrial park, and the court of appeals affirmed. Because there was no reasonable interpretation of section 5-7-60 that would permit LCPW to claim a designated service area over the industrial park, the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed. View "Commissioners of Public Works v. City of Fountain Inn" on Justia Law

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In 2006, taxpayer University Ventures, LLC purchased a vacant lot in Charleston County, South Carolina (the Property). In 2008, Taxpayer received building permits to construct a hotel and pool on the Property. Construction began, and the hotel and pool were completed in April 2009, at which time a certificate of occupancy was issued. As a result of the completed improvements and pursuant to law, the Charleston County Assessor (the Assessor) reappraised the Property, which resulted in an increase in the value of the Property, which in turn increased the Taxpayer's 2010 property tax bill. The Taxpayer paid the increased 2010 tax bill without objection. This case centered on Taxpayer's challenge to the 2011 tax bill. In 2011, the Assessor continued to value the Property as an improved lot, which it in fact was. The Taxpayer protested and claimed its 2011 tax bill should have been based on the Property's value as a vacant lot as of December 31, 2008. The court of appeals rejected the Taxpayer's argument, finding it would be absurd to value the Property as a vacant lot after improvements were completed. The South Carolina Supreme Court found, consistent with South Carolina's statutory scheme, that when the value set by a reassessment program's uniform date of value conflicts with the value set by the completion of improvements to property, the improvement value controls. View "Charleston County Assessor v. University Ventures" on Justia Law

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The merits of this appeal centered on three parcels of land, serving as links in a chain necessary to satisfy contiguity requirements of annexation. The first link, the Ten-Foot Strip, was a ten-foot wide, 1.25 mile-long parcel of land in the National Forest, which was managed by the United States Forest Service. The second link was property owned by the Mt. Nebo AME Church (Church Tract), and the third link was approximately 360 acres of unimproved real estate surrounded by the National Forest on three sides (Nebo Tract). In the fall of 2003, the Town of Awendaw sought to annex the Ten-Foot Strip, which required a petition signed by the Forest Service. The Town's representatives sent the Forest Service four letters from November 2003 through February 2004 in an effort to obtain its approval. The sole question before the South Carolina Supreme Court was whether Petitioners Lynne Vicary, Kent Prause, and the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League possessed standing to contest the Town’s annexation of land within the Francis Marion National Forest (Ten-Foot Strip). Because the Town allegedly acted nefariously in using a decade-old letter as a petition for annexation, the circuit court found Petitioners had standing and reached the merits. The court of appeals reversed, finding Petitioners lacked standing. The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court, finding Petitioners had standing to challenge the annexation of the Ten-Foot Strip. View "Vicary v. Town of Awendaw" on Justia Law