Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Historic Zoning Comm wins Ransom School Case

Yesterday, the Davidson County Chancery Court issued a decision in an interesting historic zoning case. The owner applied for a certificate of appropriateness and because the base zoning had reduced the number of permitted residences (from 18 to 11), the financial viability of the project was endangered. The owner asked to be permitted to reconfigure the Ransom School here in Nashville to remove a portion of the school to make construction costs less expensive. The Commission denied the application even though it appeared to make reasonable sense.

The applicant submitted evidence tending to show that to develop the property given the current configuration of the school would raise construction costs for the project well above those in the general vicinity for similar construction. The staff and a majority of the Commission was not convinced that the construction estimates were accurate, citing examples that they thought were too high. However, no other estimates were forchcoming so that the only real evidence was that of the applicant.

The technical legal issue has to do with the amount of proof needed to show an economic hardship. Given the Court's decision, it appears that the Commission need not have any hard numbers to justify its decision but can instead simply cast doubt upon the applicant's proof. Ordinarily, in the absence of contrary evidence, that is not sufficient. If the case is appealed, it will be interesting to see what the Court of Appeals thinks under these circumstances.

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