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Wood v. Decatur County Tennessee

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

August 25, 2014


Assigned on Briefs June 27, 2014

Appeal from the Chancery Court for Decatur County No. 12CV221 Charles C. McGinley, Judge

J. Michael Ivey, Parsons, Tennessee, for the appellant, Decatur County, Tennessee.

Howard F. Douglass, Lexington, Tennessee, for the appellee, Barry Wood.

J. Steven Stafford, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Alan E. Highers, P.J., W.S., and David R. Farmer, J., joined.




The facts in this case are not in dispute and were stipulated to at the trial court level. Petitioner/Appellee, Barry Wood ("Mr. Wood") filed an application with the Decatur County Beer Board of Defendant/Appellant Decatur County, Tennessee ("Decatur County"), requesting a license for the sale and storage of packaged beer in a location within Decatur County, but outside any incorporated city or town. Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated Section 57-5-105, discussed in detail, infra, Decatur County has exercised its discretion to enact an ordinance forbidding the "storage, sale or manufacture at places within two thousand feet of such places of public gatherings including schools and churches."[1] See Tenn. Code Ann. §57-5-105. Later, Decatur County also adopted Tennessee River Resort District Act status, which purportedly allows the sale of alcoholic beverages within three miles inland from the nearest bank of the Tennessee River.[2] Mr. Wood filed his application for a beer permit with Decatur County on or about January 4, 2012, after previously obtaining a license to sell alcoholic beverages from the State of Tennessee's Alcoholic Beverage Commission. On March 26, 2012, the Decatur County Beer Board denied his application by a unanimous vote. The Decatur County Beer Board determined Mr. Wood's place of business was located approximately 625 feet from White's Creek Chapel, [3] violating the two thousand foot distance ordinance.

On April 23, 2012 Mr. Wood filed a petition for writ of certiorari, arguing the Decatur County Beer Board erred in its decision to deny his application for a beer permit. In his petition, Mr. Wood contends that his business is located within a Tennessee River resort district, and that state statute authorizes the sale of both alcoholic beverages and beer within the district. Decatur County filed a response on May 22, 2012, denying that any relief should be granted to Mr. Wood.

A hearing was conducted on September 17, 2013 in the Chancery Court of Decatur County. The Chancery Court found the provisions of the Tennessee River Resort Act adopted by Decatur County supercede the local distance ordinance and ordered Decatur County to issue a beer permit to Mr. Wood. The trial court's written order was entered on October 31, 2013. Decatur County timely filed an appeal on November 5, 2013.

The same day, Decatur County filed a motion for stay pending appeal pursuant to Rule 62.04 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. See Tenn. R. Civ. P. Rule 62.04 (providing that "when an appeal is taken the appellant by giving a bond may obtain a stay"). Decatur County requested a stay of the order requiring the issuance a beer permit during the time the appeal was pending, arguing it would invalidate Decatur County's two-thousand foot rule. Further, Decatur County's motion contained a request for waiver of the cost bond pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 60.02, which provides that when the appeal is taken by the County, no cost bond or other security should be required from the appellant. The chancery court heard Decatur County's requests on November 14, 2013. On November 20, 2013, the trial court entered an order denying Decatur County's requests.

Issues Presented

As we perceive it, there is one issue before this Court: Whether Decatur County's status as a Tennessee River resort district supersedes the distance ordinance previously adopted by Decatur County?

Standard of Review

We review the trial court's findings of fact de novo with a presumption of correctness, unless the evidence preponderates otherwise. Tenn. R. App. P. 13(d). No presumption of correctness, however, attaches to the trial court's conclusions of law and our review is de novo. Blair v. Brownson, 197 S.W.3d 681, 684 (Tenn. 2006) (citing Bowden v. Ward, 27 S.W.3d 913, 916 (Tenn. 2000)).

The specific issues in this case concern the construction and interpretation of various statutes. Questions regarding the interpretation and application of statutes to undisputed facts are issues of law; as such, they are reviewed de novo, with no presumption of the correctness in the trial court's conclusions. U.S. Bank N.A. v. Tenn. Farmers Mut. Ins. Co., 277 S.W.3d 381, 386 (Tenn. 2009). In determining the proper interpretation to be given to a statute, we are to apply the "familiar rules" of statutory construction:

Our role is to determine legislative intent and to effectuate legislative purpose. [Lee Med., Inc. v. Beecher, 312 S.W.3d 515, 526 (Tenn. 2010)]; In re Estate of Tanner, 295 S.W.3d 610, 613 (Tenn. 2009). The text of the statute is of primary importance, and the words must be given their natural and ordinary meaning in the context in which they appear and in light of the statute's general purpose. See Lee Med., Inc., 312 S.W.3d at 526; Hayes v. Gibson Cnty., 288 S.W.3d 334, 337 (Tenn. 2009); Waldschmidt v. Reassure Am. Life Ins. Co., 271 S.W.3d 173, 176 (Tenn. 2008). When the language of the statute is clear and unambiguous, courts look no farther to ascertain its meaning. See Lee Med., Inc., 312 S.W.3d at 527; Green v. Green, 293 S.W.3d 493, 507 (Tenn. 2009). When necessary to resolve a statutory ambiguity or conflict, courts may consider matters beyond the statutory text, including public policy, historical facts relevant to the enactment of the statute, the background and purpose of the statute, and the entire statutory scheme. Lee Med., Inc., 312 S.W.3d at 527–28. However, these non-codified external sources "cannot provide a basis for departing from clear codified statutory provisions." Id. at 528.

Mills v. Fulmarque, 360 S.W.3d 362, 368 (Tenn. 2012). Further, when construing multiple statutes, statutes involving the same subject matter must be construed harmoniously, so that they do not conflict. State v. Turner, 193 S.W.3d 522 (Tenn. 2006); In re Akins, 87 S.W.3d 488, 493 (Tenn. 2002) ...

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