Friday, July 31, 2020

Keith v Maury County Board of Zoning Appeals

This case will take little by way of analysis. Once again, we have an appeal from a decision of a local Board of Zoning Appeals, styled a petition for writ of certiorari, but which is not verified, that is, sworn to by the petitioner.

The law is clear: in the absence of verification by the petitioner within 60 days of the decision of the local board or commission, the local courts have no jurisdiction to entertain the claim. Thus it was in this case.

I have often lamented this requirement feeling that it is totally unnecessary and should be deleted by the simple expedient of adopting a new state procedure for appealing land-use decisions. Many other states have done this. I attempted to introduce legislation a few years back to accomplish this result, but it seems that there are a number of large cities which have some success in dismissing a number of cases which are not verified. Thus, there was opposition to the idea of doing away with the requirement.

Obviously, if the verification requirement added something to the process, that would be one thing. But in these cases, almost all the facts are known to everyone. Rarely is there any dispute about the facts in cases of this type. The real question is whether the facts as stated allow for the issuance of a variance, conditional use permit, or other relief which may be provided by the local zoning ordinance. The verification requirement has no impact on that question, and legislation allowing for land-use appeals without the verification requirement should be adopted by the Tennessee General Assembly.

Having said that, the zoning board decision in this case was most likely correct. The applicants were attempting to engage in activities which were not permitted by the zoning ordinance at their property; the zoning administrator notified them of the violation and they attempted to appeal his decision unsuccessfully. Most likely, even if the court had heard the case, it would have ruled against them anyway.

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