City of Bellefontaine Neighbors v. Carroll, No. ED 107710

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtPhilip M. Hess, Presiding Judge
Citation597 S.W.3d 335
Parties CITY OF BELLEFONTAINE NEIGHBORS, Respondent, v. James CARROLL, Appellant.
Decision Date14 January 2020
Docket NumberNo. ED 107710

597 S.W.3d 335

CITY OF BELLEFONTAINE NEIGHBORS, Respondent,
v.
James CARROLL, Appellant.

No. ED 107710

Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, DIVISION TWO.

Filed: January 14, 2020
Application for Transfer Denied April 28, 2020


FOR APPELLANT, James Carroll, Pro Se.

FOR RESPONDENT, William J. Clark IV, 9641 Bellevontaine Road, Bellefontaine Neighbors, Missouri 63137.

Philip M. Hess, Presiding Judge

Introduction

James Carroll ("Appellant") appeals from the trial court’s judgment finding he violated section 302.4.31 of the City of

597 S.W.3d 339

Bellefontaine Neighbors’ ("City") Property Maintenance Code by allowing bare dirt in his rear yard and section 29-29(b)(5)2 of the Zoning Ordinance by having chickens and poultry on his property closer than 150 feet from his lot line. The trial court imposed a fine of $250.

Appellant brings five points on appeal. In his first point on appeal, Appellant argues the trial court erred in finding him guilty of violating section 302.4.3 of the Property Maintenance Code and section 29-29(b)(5) of the Zoning Ordinance because the information and violation notices were facially insufficient so Appellant "c[ould not] understand how he [wa]s violating the ordinances in order to prepare a defense." Appellant’s remaining arguments assert the trial court erred in finding him guilty of violating section 29-29(b)(5) of the Zoning Ordinance. In his second point on appeal, Appellant argues the information charged him with violating the incorrect Zoning Ordinance. In his third point on appeal, Appellant argues the Building Inspector had no authority under section 29-118(a)3 of the Zoning Ordinance to enforce violations. In his fourth point on appeal, Appellant argues section 89.020.14 of the Zoning Enabling Act does not give the City "the police power to regulate enclosures or shelters" and the City acted outside the scope of its authority by enacting section 29-29(b)(5). Finally, Appellant argues section 29-29(b)(5) is "not in harmony" with Chapter 4 of the City’s ordinances and "no reasonable person would consult the Zoning [Ordinance] when purchasing animals (e.g., chickens)." Each of Appellant’s five points on appeal are denied. The trial court’s judgment finding Appellant guilty of violating section 29-29(b)(5) of the Zoning Ordinance is affirmed. However, the trial court’s judgment finding Appellant guilty of violating section 302.4.3 of the Property Maintenance Code after the City abandoned that charge at trial is reversed, and we amend the trial court’s judgment accordingly.

Factual and Procedural Background

Appellant resides in the City on Ashbrook Drive. Appellant’s residence is in the R-3 zoning district, and the dimensions of his lot are 85 x 104 feet. In early 2018, Appellant allegedly allowed chicken and poultry to roam free on his fenced-in rear yard, which was not cultivated in grass. Section 29-29(b)(5) of the Zoning Ordinance provides "any structure, enclosure or shelter for poultry or livestock shall be located at least one hundred fifty (150) feet from all lot lines." Section 302.4.3 of the Property Maintenance Code provides "[a]ll bare ground areas of residential lots with dwellings shall be cultivated with grass lawns."

On May 22, 2018, Appellant received a violation notice from the City’s Building Inspector, stating that, "by allowing chickens/poultry to be on [his] property, [he was] not in compliance with the City of Bellefontaine Neighbors’ Ordinance 29-29(b)(5)." The violation notice stated the dimensions of his residence "would not allow [him] to comply with [section 29-29(b)(5)’s] requirement."

597 S.W.3d 340

The violation notice also requested Appellant "provide a grass lawn at the rear yard," as "[g]round cover is required at all bare ground areas." The violation notice requested he correct his violations by June 5, 2018. Appellant made no corrections.

On June 7, 2018, Appellant received a second violation notice from the City’s Building Inspector, again stating he did not comply with section 29-29(b)(5) of the Zoning Ordinance and requesting he provide a grass lawn at the rear yard. The violation notice requested he correct his violations by June 21, 2018, and provided, if no corrections were made, he would be issued a court summons. Appellant made no corrections. On July 14, 2018, the City charged Appellant by information, alleging Appellant violated section 302.4.3 of the Property Maintenance Code by allowing bare dirt in his rear yard and section 29-29 of the Zoning Ordinance by having chickens and poultry on his property closer than 150 feet from his lot line.

On August 8, 2018, Appellant appeared for a hearing at the City’s municipal court. At the hearing, Appellant requested the case be heard in the Twenty-First Circuit Court. On August 28, 2018, Appellant’s case was certified to the Twenty-First Circuit Court. On September 17, 2018, Appellant moved to dismiss the information. He argued dismissal was proper because the information and violation notices were facially insufficient. On September 21, 2018, Appellant again moved to dismiss the information, arguing dismissal was proper because the information charged him with violating the incorrect Zoning Ordinance. A bench trial was held on November 20, 2018. The City appeared by the City Prosecuting Attorney. Appellant waived his right to counsel and represented himself. The trial court heard arguments on Appellant’s motions to dismiss and took the motions with the case. The City presented testimony from the Building Inspector and Appellant’s neighbor. Appellant testified in his own defense. The City abandoned its charge alleging Appellant violated section 302.4.3 of the Property Maintenance Code at trial.

On January 22, 2019, the trial court entered its order and judgment, denying Appellant’s motions to dismiss and finding Appellant guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt, of violating section 302.4.3 of the Property Maintenance Code by allowing bare dirt in his rear yard and section 29-29 of the Zoning Ordinance by having chickens and poultry on his property closer than 150 feet from his lot line. On March 8, 2019, Appellant was sentenced and fined $250.

Appellant now appeals.

Rule 84.04

Appellant’s brief violates Rule 84.04(e)5 because it fails to set forth the standard of review. Rule 84.04(e) requires the appellant’s argument to "include a concise statement of the applicable standard of review for each claim of error." Rule 84.04(e). "Pro se appellants are held to the same standards as attorneys regarding the mandatory appellate briefing rules of Rule 84.04." Scott v. Potter Elec. Signal Co. , 310 S.W.3d 311, 312 (Mo. App. E.D. 2010) (footnote omitted). Noncompliance with Rule 84.04(e) justifies dismissal, as "it is not our duty to supplement the deficient brief with our own research." Anglin Family Invs. v. Hobbs , 375 S.W.3d 244, 250 (Mo. App. S.D. 2012) (internal quotation and citation omitted). However, our preference is to reach the merits of every appeal, "provided we can ascertain the gist of an appellant’s arguments, notwithstanding minor

597 S.W.3d 341

shortcomings in briefing." Unifund CCR Partners v. Myers , 563 S.W.3d 740, 743 (Mo. App. E.D. 2018) (citing Comp & Soft, Inc. v. AT&T Corp. , 252 S.W.3d 189, 193-94 (Mo. App. E.D. 2008) ). Because Appellant’s omission of the standard of review governing his claim "does not impede review or require us to act as [his] advocate," we will address his claims ex gratia. Hobbs , 375 S.W.3d at 252.

Standard of Review

"In Missouri, violations of municipal ordinances are civil matters but, because of the quasi-criminal nature of an ordinance, are subject to the criminal standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt." City of Dexter v. McClain , 345 S.W.3d 883, 885 (Mo. App. S.D. 2011) (citing City of Strafford v. Croxdale , 272 S.W.3d 401, 404 (Mo. App. S.D. 2008) ). "We review the trial court’s decision in a court-tried, civil matter (including violations of municipal ordinances) under the standard set forth in Murphy v. Carron , 536 S.W.2d 30 (Mo. banc 1976)." Id. (footnote omitted). "Under the Murphy standard, we must affirm the trial court’s decision unless there is no substantial evidence to support it, it is against the weight of the evidence, or it erroneously declares or applies the law." Id. (citing Murphy , 536 S.W.2d at 32 ). "When reviewing a court-tried case, we view all evidence and inferences in the light most favorable to the judgment and disregard all contrary evidence and inferences." Houston v. Crider , 317 S.W.3d 178, 186 (Mo. App. S.D. 2010) (internal quotation and citation omitted). We review the trial court’s interpretation of a city ordinance de novo. City of Creve Coeur v. Nottebrok , 356 S.W.3d 252, 257 (Mo. App. E.D. 2011), overruled on other grounds by Edwards v. City of Ellisville , 426 S.W.3d 644 (Mo. App. E.D. 2013).

Discussion

Mistake in the Trial Court’s Judgment

The trial court’s order and judgment found Appellant guilty of violating section 302.4.3 of the Property Maintenance Code by allowing bare dirt in his rear yard despite the City’s abandonment of that charge...

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2 practice notes
  • Carmen v. Olsen, No. ED 108505
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • October 20, 2020
    ...dismissal, as it is not our duty to supplement the deficient brief with our own research." City of Bellefontaine Neighbors v. Carroll , 597 S.W.3d 335, 340 (Mo. App. E.D. 2020) (internal quotations omitted). Similar to Rule 84.04(c), Rule 84.04(e) requires that all factual assertions contai......
  • Murphree v. Lakeshore Estates, LLC, ED 109644
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • December 14, 2021
    ...noncompliance with Rule 84.04(e) justifies dismissal." Burgan , 618 S.W.3d at 716 (citing City of Bellefontaine Neighbors v. Carroll , 597 S.W.3d 335, 340 (Mo. App. E.D. 2020).636 S.W.3d 626 Due to the significant deficiencies in Appellants’ briefing, we must dismiss this appeal. We are rel......
2 cases
  • Carmen v. Olsen, No. ED 108505
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • October 20, 2020
    ...dismissal, as it is not our duty to supplement the deficient brief with our own research." City of Bellefontaine Neighbors v. Carroll , 597 S.W.3d 335, 340 (Mo. App. E.D. 2020) (internal quotations omitted). Similar to Rule 84.04(c), Rule 84.04(e) requires that all factual assertions contai......
  • Murphree v. Lakeshore Estates, LLC, ED 109644
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • December 14, 2021
    ...noncompliance with Rule 84.04(e) justifies dismissal." Burgan , 618 S.W.3d at 716 (citing City of Bellefontaine Neighbors v. Carroll , 597 S.W.3d 335, 340 (Mo. App. E.D. 2020).636 S.W.3d 626 Due to the significant deficiencies in Appellants’ briefing, we must dismiss this appeal. We are rel......

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