Thursday, May 28, 2009

Court refuses to overturn city council's denial of an MPC-approved use-on review; uses "fairly debatable, rational basis" test

THE WADLYN CORPORATION, ET AL. v. CITY OF KNOXVILLE, ET AL. (Tenn. Ct. App. December 23, 2008).

The Wadlyn Corporation ("Wadlyn") and Camdun Realty I, LLC ("Camdun") sued the City of Knoxville ("City") and the Knoxville City Council ("City Council") concerning the City Council's reversal of the Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission's ("MPC") approval of a Concept Plan/Use-on-Review ("Use-on-Review") resulting in the denial of the Use-on-Review. After a hearing, the Trial Court dismissed Plaintiffs' complaint. Plaintiffs appeal to this Court. We affirm.

Opinion may be found at the TBA website:

"When the act of a local governmental body is legislative, judicial review is limited to “whether any rational basis exists for the legislative action and, if the issue is fairly debatable, it must be permitted to stand as valid legislation.”  Keeton v. City of Gatlinburg, 684 S.W.2d 97, 98 (Tenn. App. 1984).In general, courts of all jurisdictions have interpreted the fairly debatable standard as requiring considerable deference to the decision of the governmental authority."Id.

"If the exercise of authority by the governmental body can be classified as arbitrary or capricious, courts have routinely provided relief: [An] abuse of discretion means action that is in opposition to the intent and policy of the statute and of the ordinance adopted conformably to its provisions, as applied to the facts and circumstances of the case. McQuillin, § 25.310 at 562; See 261 S.W.2d at 238.  Abuse of discretion, arbitrariness, capriciousness, and unreasonableness are often terms used interchangeably. Id.

"[T]he City Council had before it a map showing the proposed density of the Property and the densities of surrounding developments.  This map constitutes material evidence that the proposed plan for the Property was not in harmony with the surrounding area or would the character of the neighborhood in which the site is located….” Id.