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Metz v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

February 16, 2018

GEORGE METZ, ET AL.
v.
METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY, TENNESSEE, ET AL.

          Session December 5, 2017

         Appeal from the Chancery Court for Davidson County No. 16-1335-III Ellen Hobbs Lyle, Chancellor

         This appeal arises from the dismissal of a petition for writ of certiorari to challenge two administrative decisions by the Planning Commission of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee. The petition was dismissed pursuant to a Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(1) motion for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The challenge to the first decision was dismissed because the statutory sixty-day period had run from the date the minutes approving the challenged decision had been entered. The challenge to the second decision, the Planning Commission's decision to approve the final site plan, was deemed untimely because the challenge to a site plan must be filed within sixty days of the entry of the minutes approving the master development plan, not the final site plan, and the statutory period had run. Finding no error, we affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery Court Affirmed

          Gina Crawley, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, George Metz, Marilyn Metz, Aubrey Pearson, Jr., Jacqueline Pearson, Berry Wright, and Evelyn Wright.

          John Cooper, Director of Law; Lora Barkenbus Fox, Catherine J. Pham, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee. William N. Helou, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, The Ridge at Antioch, Limited Partnership.

          Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S. delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Richard H. Dinkins and W. Neal McBrayer, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          FRANK G. CLEMENT JR., P.J., M.S.

         George Metz, Marilyn Metz, Aubrey Pearson, Jr., Jacqueline Pearson, Berry Wright, and Evelyn Wright ("Petitioners") are neighbors who live near the site of an affordable housing project called The Ridge at Antioch ("The Ridge"), which is located within the Forest View Park Planned Unit Development Overlay District ("Forest View PUD"). In 1985, the Metropolitan Council ("Metro Council") conditionally approved the Ridge for up to 212 multi-family dwelling units.

         In 2016, the developer of The Ridge, The Ridge at Antioch, Limited Partnership, ("the Developer") presented a master development plan (also known as a preliminary master development plan or a preliminary site plan)[1] seeking to reduce the number of dwelling units. The Commission approved the master development plan on March 24, 2016. The minutes for the March 24 meeting were signed and entered on April 14, 2016. At the request of Petitioners, a member of the Metro Council requested a rehearing. The Commission denied the request on April 28, 2016. The Commission approved and entered the minutes for the April 28 meeting on May 12, 2016.

         On May 16, 2016, Petitioners filed a petition for writ of certiorari and supersedeas in the Chancery Court for Davidson County, asking the court to review the March 24, April 14, and May 12 decisions. Petitioners alleged that the Commission acted in an arbitrary and judicially excessive manner when it found the Forrest View PUD to be active; however, Petitioners did not support their petition by oath, as required. Petitioners filed several amended petitions but none were supported by oath.

         The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County ("Metro") filed a motion to dismiss on August 5, 2016, and on August 15, Petitioners filed a proposed new petition that was supported by oath and otherwise complied with the requirements for a writ of certiorari. The trial court granted Metro's motion to dismiss, stating that the original petition filed on May 16 did not meet the requirements for a writ of certiorari. The trial court further ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to grant Petitioners' motion to amend the petition or to convert it into a declaratory judgment action. The Petitioners appealed to this Court, and we affirmed. See Metz v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville & Davidson Cty., No. M2016-02031-COA-R3-CV, 2017 WL 4677248, at *1 (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 17, 2017).

         While that appeal was pending, the Developer submitted construction and engineering plans to Metro's planning director. The planning director reviewed the detailed plans and certified to the Commission that the plans matched the master development plan approved on March 24, 2016. On October 13, 2016, the Commission approved the final site plan[2] and entered the minutes on October 27.

         On December 27, 2016, Petitioners commenced this action by filing a writ of certiorari in the Chancery Court for Davidson County, alleging that the Commission approved "an illegal final site plan" on October 13, 2016. The petition sought injunctive relief from two of the Commission's decisions, the October 13 decision and the April 28 decision to deny a rehearing.

         On January 6, 2016, Metro filed a motion to dismiss arguing that the writ of certiorari was time-barred as to both decisions. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss, ruling that "the triggering event for determining the 60-day time to appeal in this case was approval of the revised preliminary site plan" on March 24. Accordingly, Petitioners' writ of certiorari was untimely. This appeal followed.

         Issue

         This appeal focuses on the subject matter jurisdiction of the trial court to adjudicate the writ of certiorari. Metro filed a Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(1) motion challenging the court's subject matter jurisdiction. The trial court granted the motion and dismissed the petition. Accordingly, the dispositive issue in this appeal is ...


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