MS Supreme Court docket Reverses Metropolis’s Interpretation of the Phrase “Major Constructing Space” Allowing Accent Buildings As much as 50% of the House’s Sq. Footage

This publish was authored by Matthew Loescher, Esq.

The Metropolis of Gautier granted David Vindich a allow to construct a 1,410 sq. foot storage/workshop on his .76-acre lot. When the constructing was virtually accomplished, Vindich’s neighbor, Martin Wheelan, filed a lawsuit within the Jackson County Chancery Court docket, arguing the Metropolis’s resolution was illegal since Vindich really sought a variance, which required a public listening to somewhat than a constructing allow. After a trial, the chancellor dismissed Wheelan’s claims, discovering that the Metropolis’s interpretation of the relevant ordinance was not manifestly unreasonable. The chancellor additional discovered that the constructing was not a nuisance. Wheelan appealed, and the Court docket of Appeals affirmed.

The document mirrored that the Planning Fee agreed that the Unified Growth Ordinance was not clear however nonetheless voted 4 to a few to reverse the Constructing Division’s resolution and permit Vindich to construct the workshop. The Constructing Division advocated for its interpretation that each one accent buildings mixed collectively couldn’t exceed 50 % of the house’s sq. footage. In one other vote, the Metropolis Council accepted the Planning Fee’s resolution to permit Vindich to construct the 1,400 sq. foot workshop. The Metropolis’s precise interpretation of the Unified Growth Ordinance was absent from the document; nonetheless, the Metropolis offered in its temporary that it interpreted the phrase “major constructing space” to imply the whole lot.

The court docket famous that the flaw within the Metropolis’s interpretation of Part 5.4.4.F led to absurd outcomes and rendered components of the ordinance meaningless. Particularly, whereas the Metropolis’s interpretation of “major constructing space” would allow the home-owner to construct accent buildings overlaying as much as fifty % of the “whole lot,” the instantly previous sentence of the ordinance restricted the principal construction and all accent buildings mixed to solely twenty-five % of the lot space. For the reason that twenty-five % of the lot is at all times lower than fifty % of the lot, the twenty-five-percent limitation within the first sentence would at all times management, and the Metropolis’s interpretation of the fifty-percent limitation would by no means apply. Accordingly, the Metropolis’s interpretation of the phrase “major constructing space” renders that very phrase a nullity.

Because the court docket held that the Metropolis’s interpretation of Part 5.4.4.F of its UDO was manifestly unreasonable, it reversed the judgment of the chancery court docket with directions to vacate the Metropolis Council’s order granting the constructing allow.

Wheelan v Coty of Gautier, 2022 WL 325207 (MS 2/3/2022)