READY MIX, USA, LLC v. JEFFERSON COUNTY, TENNESSEE - Articles

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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Aug 30, 2012

Head Comment: With Concurring Opinion

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys 1:

Arthur G. Seymour, Jr. and Benjamin C. Mullins, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ready Mix, USA, LLC.

Attorneys 2:

S. Douglas Drinnon and Larry Ray Churchwell, Dandridge, Tennessee, for the appellee, Jefferson County, Tennessee.

Judge(s): WADE

The plaintiff, a producer of construction aggregates, acquired property with proven reserves for mining and quarrying operations. Afterward, Jefferson County enacted a comprehensive zoning ordinance limiting the use of the property to agricultural purposes. Before the passage of the ordinance, the plaintiff undertook various activities designed to establish business operations. When the county issued a stop work order, the plaintiff, without first receiving a decision from the county’s board of zoning appeals, filed a declaratory judgment action arguing that the portion of the property not previously subject to zoning qualified as a pre-existing non-conforming use, protected by Tennessee Code Annotated section 13-7-208 (1992). After concluding that the plaintiff was not required to exhaust its administrative remedies, the trial court ruled that the business activities on the property were “in operation” at the effective date of the ordinance for purposes of grandfather protection under section 13- 7-208. Because the Court of Appeals held that the plaintiff had failed to exhaust its administrative remedies, the judgment was set aside. We hold that the trial court, under these circumstances, did not err by ruling that the plaintiff was not required to exhaust the administrative remedies. We further hold that the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s finding that the plaintiff had established operations sufficient to qualify for protection under Tennessee Code Annotated section 13-7-208.