City of Louisiana v. Branham, 72584

Decision Date09 June 1998
Docket NumberNo. 72584,72584
Citation969 S.W.2d 332
PartiesThe CITY OF LOUISIANA, Plaintiff/Respondent, v. Don BRANHAM and Rhonda Branham, Defendants/Appellants.
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

John T. Bruere, St. Peters, for appellant.

Joseph A. Brannon, Schaper and Fisher, Bowling Green, for respondent.

RICHARD B. TEITELMAN, Judge.

Defendants Don Branham and Rhonda Branham purchased several adjoining lots within the City of Louisiana, Missouri with the intent to place a mobile home on each lot. Thereafter the City ordered Defendants to stop work on the lots, claiming that the development would constitute a "mobile home park" in violation of applicable City ordinances and zoning regulations. When Defendants later proceeded to place a mobile home on one of their lots, the City filed this action for an injunction and also for declaratory judgment to determine upon which, if any, of their six lots Defendants could lawfully place mobile homes. Defendants appeal the trial court's judgment which held that they were entitled to place a mobile home on only one of their six lots. Defendants contend the judgment was based upon a zoning ordinance amendment which was invalidly enacted and thus unenforceable. We agree. Reversed.

Defendants purchased their property on July 29, 1992. The real estate consisted of Lot 8 of Block 4, and Lots 3 through 8 of Block 3, in the Bank of Louisiana Subdivision, a Subdivision which has been platted since 1917 and accepted and approved by the City of Louisiana. Defendants purchased these seven lots with the intention of placing mobile homes on two of the lots to use as permanent dwelling places for themselves and some of their relatives, and to purchase mobile homes for the remaining lots and rent them out. The lots are located in an area that runs along the railroad tracks and lies within a district that was at the time of purchase and has remained throughout the course of this litigation zoned "R-2, Mobile Home Dwelling District".

Ordinance No. 6266 (LO 6266) is the general zoning ordinance for the City of Louisiana. It sets forth the zoning rules and definitions, establishes the different zoning districts within the City, and provides for the various specific uses which are allowed and not allowed within each of those respective zoning districts. Business and industrial districts are zoned as either B-1, B-2, I-1 or I-2. Residential districts are zoned either R-1, which allows buildings and homes for dwelling purposes, or R-2, which is actually denominated "mobile home dwelling district" and which allows buildings, homes or "mobile homes for dwelling purposes." At the same time, however, LO 6266 also expressly prohibits within R-2 districts "any use as allowed in B-1, B-2 I-1 or I-2 districts." And one of the specific enumerated uses allowed in B-2 districts is "mobile home parks, for dwelling purposes."

By its terms LO 6266 thus prohibits the existence of mobile home parks within an R-2 district, even while at the same time providing that it is permissible to place mobile homes for dwelling purposes on individual lots within such a district. LO 6266 does not provide definition for the term "mobile home park."

On July 11, 1994, Defendants applied for a City permit for the installation of sewer and water lines to serve seven mobile homes to be placed upon their seven lots. This application was initially approved and a permit issued on July 12, 1994. Defendants then commenced installing the sewer and water lines. On July 28, 1994, after Defendants had completed approximately 90% of the installation work, the Mayor of the City of Louisiana issued a stop work order. Later, Defendants were allowed to complete the installation of these systems, at a cost to them of approximately $10,000.

At approximately the same time when installation work first began on the sewer and water lines Defendants also moved a mobile home onto Lot 3, Block 3. Defendants had applied for a permit to do so and expected that the permit would be granted but it was at first denied. On September 9, 1994, Defendants sold Lot 3 of Block 3 to Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Hill, leaving Defendants with six of their original seven lots. Mrs. Hill is Defendant Rhonda Branham's mother. The City eventually issued a permit for a mobile home on Lot 3; and both parties to this action have stipulated that the Hills lawfully reside in a mobile home on that lot.

On November 14, 1994, the City Council enacted Ordinance No. 6478 (LO 6478). That ordinance, which states on its face that it is applicable to "all sections of the Louisiana Code of Ordinances," defines the term "Mobile Home-Trailer Park." It defines that term as: "One or more adjoining lots used or intended to be used, let, leased, rented or sold for the siting of two or more manufactured houses, manufactured homes, mobile homes or trailers for residential use." Prior to LO 6478's enactment no public hearing was held in relation thereto, by either the City Council or the City's Planning and Zoning Commission.

On March 16, 1995, Defendants applied to the City for a building permit to place a mobile home on Lot 8, Block 4. On March 21, 1995, the City denied the requested permit. Defendants subsequently appealed that decision to the City's Board of Adjustment. The Board refused to render any ruling in the appeal. Defendants had also appealed to the Board of Adjustment once previously, regarding the City's initial denial of a permit to place a mobile home on Lot 3 of Block 3, and the Board likewise declined to make a ruling on that occasion as well. The parties have stipulated that Defendants have exhausted all administrative remedies available to them with respect to the matters at issue in this litigation.

On July 1, 1995, Defendants placed a double-wide mobile home on Lots 4 and 5 of Block 3, without seeking a building permit to do so. Defendants maintained that no permit was required because the mobile home was placed there only for storage rather than for dwelling purposes. 1

The City disagreed. On August 3, 1995, the City filed an action for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief against Defendants. In its petition the City requested a judgment "declaring [Defendants] to either be in violation of or compliance with the zoning ordinances of the City of Louisiana" regarding their placement of a mobile home on Lots 4 and 5 of Block 3, and alleged that such placement violated the provisions of LO 6266 which prohibited "mobile home parks" within any R-2 Mobile Home Dwelling District. The petition sought injunctive relief to prevent Defendants from placing a mobile home on Lots 4 and 5 of Block 3, and further enjoining them from placing mobile homes "on any adjoining lots to which the [Defendants] have an interest which would also violate the zoning ordinances of the City of Louisiana."

Defendants filed an Answer and Counterclaim, in which they sought a judgment that they were legally entitled to place mobile homes for dwelling purposes upon all six of their remaining lots, and injunctive relief mandating that the City allow them to do so. Defendants' counterclaim also sought a ruling that they were lawfully entitled under city ordinances to place there indefinitely "for storage purposes only" the mobile home located on Lots 4 and 5 of Block 3, without a permit, "just as they would have the right to store building materials on a dwelling lot...."

The cause was heard in a non-jury trial held on May 13, 1996. Both parties stated on the record that they were seeking a judicial determination as to which, if any, of Defendants' remaining six lots Defendants could lawfully place a mobile home upon to rent or sell for residential use.

On June 21, 1996, several landowners who owned property nearby Defendants' six lots filed a motion for leave to file an Amicus Curiae brief with the trial court, along with a copy of the proposed brief. Defendants objected to the proposed Amicus brief on the ground that its statement of facts as well as some of its attached "exhibits" contained matters of alleged fact outside the record after evidence in the case had been closed, and that Defendants would not have an opportunity to rebut or cross-examine such alleged new "evidence". On September 20, 1996, the trial court entered an order granting leave for the Amicus Curiae brief to be filed and considered by the court solely for purposes of the legal issues discussed therein, specifically stating in the order that the court "disregards any evidence of fact contained in the Amicus Curiae Brief not presented at the original hearing."

On March 10, 1997, the trial court entered the following order in the case:

Comes now the Court and upon due consideration finds for Plaintiff on its Petition for Declaratory Judgment. The Defendant is hereby ordered enjoined from placing a mobile home on Lot 8 of Block 4 in the Bank of Louisiana Subdivision. Furthermore, the Defendant is ordered enjoined from placing a mobile home on Lots 8, 7, 4 of Block 3 in the Bank of Louisiana Subdivision and may place a mobile home on either Lot 5 or Lot 6 of Block 3 in the Bank of Louisiana Sub-division. On Defendants' Counterclaim for Declaratory Judgment the Court finds for the Plaintiff and further prohibits Defendant from storing a mobile home or portion thereof on lots in question not in conformance with the above orders. Costs are taxed to the Defendants. Counsel to be notified.

On March 20, 1997, Defendants filed their "Motion For A New Trial Or In The Alternative To Amend Order." This motion requested that the court order a new trial to allow Defendants to offer evidence countering the statements and exhibits contained in the Amicus Curiae brief which were not part of the evidentiary record at trial. In the alternative, it requested that the court amend its order of March 10, 1997 by denominating it as a "Judgment," and further amend the order by including within it findings of fact and...

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