RICHARD KEITH ET AL.
MAURY COUNTY BOARD OF ZONING APPEALS
Session November 6, 2018
from the Chancery Court for Maury County No. 17-394 David L.
receiving a cease and desist letter from a local zoning
official forbidding them from hosting an off-road event on
their property, landowners appealed to the board of zoning
appeals. The board denied their application. And landowners
sought review by filing an unverified petition for writ of
certiorari in the chancery court. On the board's motion,
the court dismissed the petition for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. On appeal, landowners argue that their petition
in actuality seeks declaratory relief. We conclude that
landowners were challenging a quasi-judicial decision of a
local board of zoning appeals and that a petition for writ of
certiorari was the proper method for seeking review. Because
landowners' petition was not verified, we affirm the
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery
East and Benjamin Lewis, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the
appellants, Richard D. Keith, Deborah Keith, and Plowboy
L. Murphy, Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellee, Maury
County, Tennessee (Maury County Board of Zoning Appeals).
Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Andy D. Bennett and Richard H. Dinkins, JJ., joined.
NEAL MCBRAYER, JUDGE
and Deborah Keith, property owners in Maury County,
Tennessee, hoped to host recreational events involving
off-road vehicles on their property. They formed a limited
liability company, Plowboy Motorsports LLC, to operate the
events. The Maury County Building and Zoning Coordinator
determined that the proposed use was not permissible under
the zoning classification applicable to the Keiths'
property. The Keiths attempted to have their property rezoned
and approval of a "Special Exception Use" without
hoping to host recreational events involving off-road
vehicles, the Keiths obtained a mass gathering permit from
the mayor's office in anticipation of a scheduled event.
The Keiths then received a "cease and desist"
letter from the Maury County Director of Building and Zoning
prohibiting them from operating an off-road event on their
property. A second letter arrived several months later.
Keiths sought relief from the Maury County Board of Zoning
Appeals. At their hearing before the BZA, they argued that
their proposed use was protected by Tennessee's
agritourism statute. See Tenn. Code Ann.
§§ 43-39-101 to -103 (Supp. 2018). They also argued
that the proposed use was permitted by their current zoning.
The BZA denied their application.
19, 2017, the Keiths and Plowboy Motorsports filed a pleading
titled "Petition for Writ of Certiorari Review" in
the Chancery Court for Maury County, Tennessee. The petition
was described as "an action for declaratory judgment and
certiorari review of certain zoning matters related to
[their] property as were reviewed by [the BZA] on June 14,
2017." The petitioners requested "an order
authorizing and making judicial declaration that [the
proposed] use of said property [wa]s lawful under its use and
definition." In the alternative, they argued that their
"Application to the . . . BZA was wrongfully denied
based on the fact that it would be outside of the . . .
BZA's jurisdiction and/or was arbitrary and capricious
and should be judicially modified to prevent further damage
to the Plaintiffs."
moved to dismiss the petition for certiorari review because
it lacked verification. The BZA contended that, without the
required verification, the trial court ...