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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Mar 28, 2013

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Nancy Vincent, Maia Tiffany Woodhouse, and V. Austin Shaver, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Waste Connections of Tennessee, Inc.

Attorneys 2:

Lora Barkenbus Fox and Emily Herring Lamb, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee.

Judge(s): CLEMENT

The dispositive issue in this land use appeal highlights important legal distinctions between when a local governmental body is functioning in a legislative capacity or an administrative capacity, and what can go wrong when the governmental body fails to conduct its meetings pursuant to the proper legal standards. When the local governmental body is enacting laws, such as zoning ordinances, it is functioning in a legislative capacity; however, when the governmental body is implementing existing zoning ordinances it is functioning as an administrative body or board. In this case the Council of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee (“Metro Council”) was functioning as an administrative board, not in a legislative capacity, when it disapproved an application for the location of a waste transfer station located on property zoned “industrial restrictive.” When the application was disapproved, the applicant filed a petition for common law writ of certiorari seeking to set aside the disapproval on the ground that it was illegal, arbitrary, fraudulent, and/or capricious because the Metro Council failed to comply with the requirements of Metropolitan Code § 17.40.280 by making a decision for the sole reason that local residents opposed the station, and not because the proposed use was “consistent or not consistent” with the requirements of Metro Code § 17.16. The trial court dismissed the petition and this appeal followed. Under the common law writ of certiorari standard, our review of the Metro Council’s administrative decision is limited to determining whether the decision is clearly illegal, arbitrary, or capricious. An administrative decision that is not supported by substantial and material evidence is, by definition, arbitrary and capricious. This record is devoid of any substantial or material evidence to support the decision to disapprove the location for a waste transfer station; accordingly, the decision was arbitrary. We, therefore, reverse the trial court’s dismissal of the common law petition for writ of certiorari and remand with instructions to set aside the Metro Council’s disapproval of the location and to order that the application for a special exception be submitted to the Board of Zoning Appeals for its consideration pursuant to Metro Code § 17.40.280.