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The Metropolitan Government of Nashville-Davidson County v. Board of Zoning Appeals of Nashville and Davidson County

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

September 3, 2014

THE METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE-DAVIDSON COUNTY, TN
v.
THE BOARD OF ZONING APPEALS OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY, TN, ET AL.

Session April 22, 2014

Appeal from the Chancery Court for Davidson County No. 12910II Carol L. McCoy, Chancellor.

Saul Solomon, Lora Barkenbus Fox, and Emily Herring Lamb, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee.

Garrett E. Asher, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, CBS Outdoor, Inc. and Felix Z. Wilson, II, Revocable Living Trust, and Equitable Trust Company.

Richard H. Dinkins, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P. J., M. S., and Laurence M. McMillan, Jr., Sp. J., joined.

OPINION

RICHARD H. DINKINS, JUDGE.

On March 7, 2012, CBS Outdoor Inc. ("CBS"), a company which builds and manages billboards, applied to the Metropolitan Department of Codes and Building Safety for permits to replace static billboards with digital billboards at two locations;[1] the application was denied by the Zoning Administrator. CBS appealed the denial to the Metropolitan Board of Zoning Appeals ("BZA") and, on April 19, the BZA reversed the Administrator's decision and granted the permits.

On June 25, 2012, the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County ("Metro") filed a petition for a writ of certiorari seeking review of the BZA's action; CBS, the Wilson Trust, Equitable Trust Company, and the BZA were listed as Respondents. CBS, the Wilson Trust and Equitable Trust Company answered the petition; in their answer they asserted as an affirmative defense that Metro did not have standing to challenge the decision. Those respondents subsequently filed a Tenn. Rule Civ. P. 12.02(6) motion to dismiss the petition for failure to state a claim, contending that Metro "does not have standing to bring suit seeking to review the final order of [Metro's] own Board." The court granted the motion and dismissed Metro's petition on May 13, 2013.

On appeal, Metro raises the following issue:

Did the trial court err in dismissing this case on the basis that the Metropolitan Government did not have standing to appeal a Metro Board of Zoning Appeals decision that violates the Metro Code.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

A Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6) motion seeks to determine whether the pleadings state a claim upon which relief may be granted; the motion challenges the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Highwoods Properties, Inc. v. City of Memphis, 297 S.W.3d 695, 700 (Tenn. 2009). The resolution of a Rule 12.02(6) motion is determined by an examination of the pleadings alone, Leggett v. Duke Energy Corp., 308 S.W.3d 843, 851 (Tenn. 2010); the motion should be granted "only when it appears that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim that would entitle the plaintiff to relief." Crews v. Buckman Labs. Int'l, Inc., 78 S.W.3d 852, 857 (Tenn. 2002).

A defendant who files a motion to dismiss "'admits the truth of all of the relevant and material allegations contained in the complaint, but . . . asserts that the allegations fail to establish a cause of action.'" Brown v. Tenn. Title Loans, Inc., 328 S.W.3d 850, 854 (Tenn. 2010) (quoting Freeman Indus., LLC v. Eastman Chem. Co., 172 S.W.3d 512, 516 (Tenn. 2005)). In considering a motion to dismiss, courts "'must construe the complaint liberally, presuming all factual allegations to be true and giving the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences.'" Tigg v. Pirelli Tire Corp., 232 S.W.3d 28, 31–32 (Tenn. 2007) (quoting Trau–Med of America, Inc. v. Allstate Ins. Co., 71 S.W.3d 691, 696 (Tenn.2002)). On appeal, we review the trial court's legal conclusions regarding the adequacy of the complaint de novo. Brown v. Tennessee Title Loans, Inc., 328 S.W.3d 850, 855 (Tenn. 2010).

II. Analysis

Metro contends that the trial court erred in holding that it did not have standing to bring this certiorari matter. Metro asserts that it has standing because (1) it is an "aggrieved party" within the meaning of Tenn. Code Ann. ยง27-9-101 and (2) Tenn. Code Ann. ...


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