WARREN COUNTY CITIZENS FOR MANAGED GROWTH, INC. V. BOWLING GREEN BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
ZONING: Standing; due process hearing
Landowners sought rezoning of their properties in Bowling Green, Kentucky. In two different cases, the City-County Planning Commission of Warren County, Kentucky (“Commission”) referred the matter to its staff for review, which, in both cases, recommended that the map amendments be granted subject to certain binding elements. Public hearings were held, and the opponents of the rezoning were represented by counsel and given the opportunity to call witnesses. The Commission approved the rezonings, and the Board of the Commissioners of the City of Bowling Green (“Board”) also heard arguments and enacted the ordinances rezoning the properties.
Warren County Citizens for Managed Growth, Inc. (“WCCMG”) appealed both decisions, filing a separate declaratory count alleging that the Commission and the Board were predisposed in favor of the map amendment. The circuit court granted summary judgment for the Commission, Board and landowners (“landowner parties”) and dismissed WCCMG’s claim for declaratory relief, stating that legislative bias was outside the scope of review. WCCMG appealed, and the landowner parties cross-appealed the finding that WCCMG had standing to appeal a rezoning decision.
The court of appeals affirmed, holding that although WCCMG did not own any property in the city, if it was aggrieved by the rezoning, it had standing under KRS 100.347(3). Because the landowner parties failed to show that none of the members of WCCMG were aggrieved by the rezoning, the ruling that it had standing to appeal was upheld.
The court also affirmed the summary judgment in favor of the landowner parties. WCCMG argued that the Comprehensive Plan of the county did not meet the requirements of KRS Chapter 100 because it allowed for arbitrary rezoning decisions. WCCMG alleged that the Commission disregarded the current focal point designation in approving the map amendments. The court, however, stated that the focal point plan, when viewed in the context of the comprehensive plan, met the requirements of KRS Chapter 100. The court held that the decisions to grant the map amendments were not arbitrary given the factual findings.
The court also affirmed the decision of the trial court dismissing WCCMG’s declaratory judgment claim, stating that a claim of bias requires a determination of whether the proceedings comported with due process, which is within the scope of review of KRS 100.347. Thus, a separate declaratory action was not appropriate. Moreover, stated the court, the legislative body does not have to be entirely impartial in considering zoning matters. The court held that the proceedings before the Commission afforded due process to all parties.
Digested by Sam Hinkle