Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia

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In December 2017, the City of Atlanta enacted an ordinance to annex certain property that lies within the Fulton County Industrial District. Fulton County filed a lawsuit for declaratory and injunctive relief against the City and several of its officers, asserting that the annexation of property within the District was prohibited by a local constitutional amendment ratified in 1979. In response, the City argued that the 1979 amendment was never constitutionally adopted, that it was repealed in any event by the adoption of the Constitution of 1983, and that local laws purporting to continue the amendment are themselves unconstitutional. The trial court agreed, and it held, among other things, that the 1979 amendment was enacted in violation of the constitutional “single subject” rule. See Ga. Const. of 1976, Art. XII, Sec. I, Par. I. The County appealed, but finding no error in the trial court's judgment, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Fulton County v. City of Atlanta" on Justia Law

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Morgan County, Georgia appealed a trial court’s order dismissing Christine May’s criminal citation for violating the County’s amended zoning ordinance by renting out her house near Lake Oconee for a week. The court concluded that the zoning ordinance in effect at the time May began renting her house for short periods was unconstitutionally vague as applied, meaning that her use of the house for such rentals was “grandfathered” and not subject to the amended ordinance’s explicit prohibition of short-term rentals for fewer than 30 days. May cross-appealed, but the Georgia Supreme Court did not address her claimed errors, because it affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of her citation. View "Morgan County v. May" on Justia Law

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In August 2015, Doug and Lynda Tatum applied to the Pickens County Board of Commissioners for a conditional use permit for a 75-acre parcel near Jasper. The application was referred to the Pickens County Planning Commission for a hearing. Following the publication of notice, the Planning Commission held a hearing in October 2015, at which several neighbors appeared and objected to the application. The Planning Commission nevertheless recommended that the application be approved, and in January 2016, the Board approved it. Some of the neighbors filed a petition for judicial review, asserting that they were denied a meaningful opportunity to be heard on the application. The neighbors moved for summary judgment, but the superior court denied it, agreeing with the Board that the notice of the October 2015 hearing was enough to satisfy the ZPL. The neighbors appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Georgia Supreme Court reversed, finding the problem with the Board decision was that it rested upon the premise that the October 2015 hearing before the Planning Commission (and the notice of that hearing) was enough to satisfy the notice-and-hearing requirements of the ZPL. "[T]he whole point of the statutory notice-and-hearing requirements is to afford interested citizens a meaningful opportunity to be heard on a proposed zoning decision. [. . .] when a hearing is too attenuated in time or circumstance from the final zoning decision, another hearing may be required." The Planning Commission in this case had no authority to make a final zoning decision, and it could only make recommendations to the Board. If an adequate record of the hearing before the Planning Commission had been made and transmitted to the Board — such that the final zoning decision of the Board could be said to have been meaningfully informed by what happened at the hearing — the hearing before the Planning Commission might satisfy the requirements of the ZPL. "But it appears that the only record of that hearing is a one-page memorandum to the Board" failed to disclose even the general nature of “considerable objections.” Accordingly, it could not be said that the hearing before the Planning Commission afforded interested citizens a meaningful opportunity to be heard by the Board on the application for a conditional use permit, and the October 2015 hearing does not satisfy the notice-and-hearing requirements of the ZPL. View "Hoechstetter v. Pickens County" on Justia Law

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Appellant Diversified Holdings, LLP (“Diversified”) and the City of Suwanee (“the City”) were involved in a zoning dispute regarding the status of 30 acres of undeveloped land located in the City (“Property”). On the merits of the issues presented, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s decision that there was no error in denying Diversified’s application to rezone the Property. But the Court clarified that the “substantially advances” standard that derives from constitutional due process guarantees had no place in an eminent domain or inverse condemnation proceeding. “Consequently, where a landowner claims harm from a particular zoning classification, inverse condemnation is not an available remedy unless the landowner can meet the separate and distinct requirements for such a claim.” The Court did not reach the City’s contention on cross appeal that the trial court erred in concluding that Diversified showed a substantial detriment based on the value of the Property as currently zoned versus its value if rezoned. View "Diversified Holdings, LLP v. City of Suwanee" on Justia Law

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This case concerns a small grocery store on Allgood Road in Marietta and, specifically the parcel of land on which that store sat. Ray Summerour owned the land for nearly three decades; the City of Marietta wanted to acquire the land to build a public park. When the City was unable to negotiate a voluntary sale of the parcel, it resolved to take the land by eminent domain, and it filed a petition to condemn the property. Following an evidentiary hearing before a special master, the superior court adopted the return and entered an order of condemnation. Summerour appealed, and the Court of Appeals set aside the condemnation order, reasoning that when the City attempted to negotiate a voluntary sale of the land, it failed to fulfill its obligations under OCGA 22-1-9. The Court of Appeals directed that the case be remanded for the superior court to consider whether the failure to comply with Section 22-1-9 amounted to bad faith. The Georgia Supreme Court issued a writ of certiorari to review the decision of the Court of Appeals, and held that compliance with Section 22-1-9 was an essential prerequisite to the filing of a petition to condemn, that the City failed in this case to fulfill that prerequisite, and that its petition to condemn, therefore, must be dismissed, irrespective of bad faith. View "City of Marietta v. Summerour" on Justia Law

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This case presented challenges to a municipal zoning ordinance. Because the property owners abandoned their claim that the ordinance was unconstitutionally enacted and did not show that it was unconstitutionally vague as applied to them or that it unconstitutionally interfered with their property rights, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s grant of summary judgment to the city. View "Edwards v. City of Warner Robins" on Justia Law

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In May 2007, the Medical Center Hospital Authority (“Hospital Authority”) filed an action against the Columbus Board of Tax Assessors and related parties (together, “the Tax Board”) in which it sought a declaration that its leasehold interest in a building located on real property owned by a private entity constituted public property exempt from ad valorem taxation under OCGA 48-5-41 (a) (1). The superior court granted summary judgment to the Hospital Authority, finding that the Hospital Authority’s leasehold interest qualified as “public property,” and was thus exempt from ad valorem property taxation. The Tax Board appealed this decision to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide whether the Court of Appeals erred in determining that two prior bond validation orders conclusively determined, for purposes of OCGA 48-5-41 (a) (1) (A), that the property at issue was “public property” exempt from ad valorem taxation. The Court held that these orders did not conclusively establish that the Hospital Authority’s leasehold interest was “public property” exempt from ad valorem taxes and therefore reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Columbus Board of Tax Assessors v. Medical Center Hospital Authority" on Justia Law

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This case arose from “a long-running battle” that appellant Richard Shelley waged against the Town of Tyrone’s zoning ordinances. Because Shelley failed to exhaust his administrative remedies before seeking relief in the trial court, his as-applied challenges to the zoning ordinances were not ripe for judicial review. The Georgia Supreme Court therefore affirmed the superior court’s order granting Tyrone partial summary judgment on those claims. And because the town enacted a new zoning ordinance, Shelley’s facial challenges to the previous ordinances were moot. The Supreme Court therefore vacated the superior court’s order addressing the merits of those claims and remanded the case with direction to dismiss those claims unless Shelley properly amended his complaint to challenge the ordinance now in effect. View "Shelly v. Town of Tyrone" on Justia Law

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Kammerer Real Estate Holdings, LLC owned a lot on which it wanted to construct an automotive service facility. Kammerer applied for a site development permit. The lot was subject to a zoning condition under the Forsyth County Unified Development Code that certain “open space” on the lot remain undeveloped. The Director of the Forsyth County Department of Planning and Community Development concluded that the proposed construction would not comply with this condition, and so, he refused to issue a site development permit. Kammerer then asked the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners to amend the zoning condition, but the Board declined to do so. At that point, Kammerer filed this lawsuit against the County, the Board, and the Director, alleging that the Director had misconstrued the “open space” condition, and if it actually meant what the Director said it meant, it was unconstitutional in several respects. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The trial court granted the motion in part and denied it in part. Kammerer appealed the dismissal of certain claims, and the defendants cross-appealed the refusal of the trial court to dismiss other claims. The Georgia Supreme Court determined the trial court properly dismissed a claim for attorney fees, but reversed in all other respects, finding the trial court misinterpreted the controlling caselaw that governed this case, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Kammerer Real Estate Holdings, LLC v. Forsyth County Bod. of Comm'rs" on Justia Law

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The Roswell City Council enacted a new Unified Development Code to govern land use issues; the Code included a zoning map. Several Roswell property owners filed a lawsuit to challenge the process by which the City Council enacted the Code. When the superior court ruled against the property owners, they directly appealed. The Court of Appeals dismissed their direct appeal, concluding that their lawsuit was a “zoning case” under Georgia Supreme Court decisions in Trend Development Corp. v. Douglas County, (383 SE2d 123) (1989), and O S Advertising Co. v. Rubin, 482 SE2d 295 (1997) (“Rubin”), and thus required an application for discretionary appeal under OCGA 5-6-35(a)(1). But the Mississippi Supreme Court held that a stand-alone lawsuit challenging an ordinance as facially invalid, unconnected to any individualized determination about a particular property, was not a “zoning case” under Trend and Rubin and did not require an application under OCGA 5-6-35. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Schumacher v. City of Roswell" on Justia Law