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City quarry appeal denied by state supreme court

Friday, February 15, 2013

Tennessee's supreme court has refused to hear the city's appeal surrounding a nine-year-old dispute over a rock quarry, putting a $10 million federal lawsuit against Shelbyville back into play.

The council was informed of the decision during an attorney/client meeting Thursday afternoon, city manager Jay Johnson told the T-G.

Last November, Shelbyville lost a state appellate case dealing with the efforts of Wright Paving Co. Inc., and Custom Stone LLC to place a quarry on L. Fisher Road, which has been the topic of lawsuits since 2005.

After Shelbyville lost the case in November, an appellate judge ordered the city's board of zoning appeals to consider the Wrights' 2004 application at the earliest possible date, remanding the case back to chancery court to see if they are entitled to any legal fees.

After the loss in November, Shelbyville filed their final appeal, this time with the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Nine-year process

The initial application for the quarry was made to the city nine years ago this month. At the time, residents near the proposed site said that blasting would damage their property.

As a result of the high court's decision not to hear the appeal, all of the legal avenues in the state case have been exhausted, which means the federal suit, which had been stayed until the state matter was settled, can now proceed.

The council will meet for another attorney/client meeting on Tuesday Feb. 26 at 4 p.m, where all legal counsel involved in the case will make their report.

Board meeting likely

Johnson also anticipated that attorneys will want to meet with the board of zoning appeals (BZA), which was also suited as a body individually.

The $10 million suit in federal court was filed by the Wrights over two years ago against the city, BZA, planning commission, and former codes and planning director Ed Dodson.

The Wrights have accused Shelbyville of violating due process, inverse condemnation, unconstitutional taking, negligence and creating an unconstitutional "floating" zone.

While the 2004 application was pending, Shelbyville changed an ordinance to rezone the Wrights' property so that a quarry was no longer permitted as a conditional use. The Wrights filed suit, and on appeal the state held that the public notice of the zoning amendment had been defective and that the change was void.

Court rulings

In 2010, the Wrights then asked the BZA to consider their application again under the property's original 2004 zoning, but the BZA refused to put the application on its meeting agenda.

The Wrights filed a petition and a trial court found that the BZA's action was arbitrary and illegal, but ruled that the Wrights were nonetheless precluded from obtaining any relief since the matter had already been before the court.

State Appellate Judge Patricia J. Cottrell wrote in November 2012 that over the past eight years, the city had blocked the Wrights' efforts to have the quarry application considered. "(I)n effect, they (the Wrights) have not had their bite of the apple," the judge said, stating that the BZA can't claim Wright Paving has taken too long to have the matter considered.