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Keith v. Maury County Board of Zoning Appeals

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

August 21, 2019

RICHARD KEITH ET AL.
v.
MAURY COUNTY BOARD OF ZONING APPEALS

          Session November 6, 2018

          Appeal from the Chancery Court for Maury County No. 17-394 David L. Allen, Judge

         After 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 dismissal.

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

          Brock East and Benjamin Lewis, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellants, Richard D. Keith, Deborah Keith, and Plowboy Motorsports, LLC.

          Daniel L. Murphy, Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellee, Maury County, Tennessee (Maury County Board of Zoning Appeals).

          W. Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Andy D. Bennett and Richard H. Dinkins, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          W. NEAL MCBRAYER, JUDGE

         I.

         Richard 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 success.

         Still 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.

         The 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.

         On July 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."

         The BZA moved to dismiss the petition for certiorari review because it lacked verification. The BZA contended that, without the required verification, the trial court ...


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