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PMFS H-View I, LLC v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

September 26, 2019

PMFS H-VIEW I, LLC
v.
METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY ET AL.

          Session August 13, 2019

          Appeal from the Chancery Court for Davidson County No. 17-1177-III Ellen H. Lyle, Chancellor

         This appeal concerns a municipality's authority to order structures demolished pursuant to the Slum Clearance and Redevelopment Act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 13-21-101 et seq., and local ordinances implementing that Act. The trial court vacated a decision of the Metropolitan Board of Property Standards and Appeals that required demolition of the structures at issue. In light of the evidence that the cost to repair the structures exceeds fifty percent of their value, we reverse the decision of the trial court.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery Court Reversed and Remanded

          J. Brooks Fox and Catherine J. Pham, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County

          R. Mark Donnell, Jr., Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, PMFS H-View I, LLC.

          Arnold B. Goldin, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., and Carma Dennis McGee, J., joined.

          OPINION

          ARNOLD B. GOLDIN, JUDGE

         BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The Appellee PMFS H-View I, LLC ("PMFS") is the owner of a vacant apartment complex located at 4301 Hermitage Road ("the Property"). Although there were existing tenants when PMFS acquired the Property in September 2007, the structures on the Property have since been vacant for over a decade. In 2017, the Davidson County Assessor of Property valued the structures at $33, 600.00.

         The present dispute stems from an inspection of the Property that occurred in May 2017. Following this inspection, PMFS was sent a letter by the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County ("Metro"), wherein William Penn, the Assistant Director of the Property Standards Division, wrote as follows:

A preliminary investigation was made by a Metropolitan Property Standards Inspector in accordance with the provisions of the Metropolitan Property Standards Code enacted by the Metropolitan Council as Ordinance No. BL-2001-585. The investigation made on May 2, 2017, revealed that the structure located thereon appears to be unfit for human habitation . . . . The Metropolitan Property Standards Inspector who investigated your property has prepared an inspection report and it is requested that you appear for a hearing before the Director or his designated agent regarding this report at 8:30 a.m. on June 27, 2017, in the Metro Office Building, 8002nd Avenue, South, 3rd Floor. You and/or parties in interest may file an answer to this complaint and you may appear in person, or otherwise, to offer your testimony or the testimony of your witnesses in opposition to the inspector's report at the above mentioned time and date.

         Pursuant to the attached inspection reports for the structures, which recommended demolition, it was noted that the cost to repair the structures would be in excess of 50% of the assessed value. In pertinent part, the reports outlined as follows:

The extent of the damage and / or deterioration of the structure(s) render the structure(s) unfit for human habitation. The severity of the condition of this property is such that the repairs necessary to bring this property into compliance with applicable codes would exceed fifty percent of the structures value qualifying this property for demolition. And in the case of this property(s), the damage / destruction of the structure(s) exceeds 75%, rendering the restoration of the structure(s) impractical.

         Although a demolition order would subsequently issue on June 27, 2017 upon the basis of the findings in the inspection reports, [1] PMFS appealed the matter to the Metropolitan Board of Property Standards and Appeals ("the Board"). A hearing before the Board was scheduled for September 6, 2017, and in advance of the hearing, counsel for PMFS tendered a letter to the Board indicating that PMFS did ...


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