Metropolitan Development and Hous. v. Eaton

CourtTennessee Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtWilliam B. Cain
Citation216 S.W.3d 327
Decision Date13 October 2006
216 S.W.3d 327
James K. EATON, et al.
Court of Appeals of Tennessee, at Nashville.
June 27, 2006 Session.
October 13, 2006.
Permission to Appeal Denied by Supreme Court February 26, 2007.

[216 S.W.3d 328]

James W. Fisher, Jr., Goodlettesville, Tennessee; Michael J. Passino, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, James K. Eaton and Toni C. Eaton.

G. Brian Jackson and David L. Johnson, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency.


WILLIAM B. CAIN, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which WILLIAM C. KOCH, JR., P.J., M.S., and FRANK G. CLEMENT, JR., J., joined.

216 S.W.3d 329

Landowners appeal the trial court's denial of their Motion to Alter or Amend filed under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 59.04. The Motion was filed after a jury awarded $504,000 as damages for the condemnation of their property. The condemnation action was brought in the context of executing the "Phillips-Jackson Redevelopment Plan" drafted by the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA) and approved by the Metro Council. Landowners argue that the trial court abused its discretion by denying the Motion and erred in entering the original possession order. They also argue that various steps taken by MDHA resulting in an amended trial court order operated to void the taking and that the proceedings were an invalid exercise of MDHA's eminent domain powers. We affirm the trial court.


James K. Eaton and his wife Toni owned three parcels of land totaling one-half acre in the downtown area now known as "Row 8.9." The Eatons purchased the three parcels as a unit, and until 2001 the Eatons had operated Eaton's Auto on the property for 22 years. In 1993 the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA) drafted the Phillips-Jackson Street Redevelopment Plan, the objectives of which included developing the Row 8.9 subarea to improve the blighted properties on Eighth and Ninth Avenues North between Phillips and Jackson Streets near what is now the Bicentennial Mall. By Ordinance 093-773, the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County approved the plan and authorized the acquisition of property in implementing the plan. The plan stated the following objectives and action to be taken:


The specific provisions and actions incorporated in the Plan have been developed and are necessary to achieve the following objectives:

a. To establish harmonious land use patterns and provide sites adequate for the planned development of new residential, commercial uses and institutional areas.

b. To provide for redevelopment of the Project Area, wherein non-conforming or deleterious land uses and the present subdivision and ownership of land precludes the orderly assemblage and desired changes in the use of land.

c. To eliminate substandard housing through acquisition and demolition or through a conservation program for the rehabilitation of existing residences where feasible and compatible with the Land Use Plan.

d. To clear and provide for redevelopment of portions of the Project Area in which a change in type or intensity of land use is necessary. Within these areas, it may be required, and is within the objectives of this Plan, that certain buildings which are not structurally substandard may be acquired and demolished.

e. To establish standards and guidelines for the redevelopment and continued use of the area which will assure adequate light, air, open-space, off-street parking, and the future stability of the entire area through quality development.

f. To provide for the relocation of businesses and residents where necessary to accomplish the objectives of the Plan.

216 S.W.3d 330

g. To eliminate and prevent the recurrence of blight.

h. To eliminate vacant lots by monitoring development and actions encouraging effective and desirable uses of land in accordance with the Plan.

I. To revitalize the commercial uses on Jefferson Street and 8th Avenue North and provide land for new commercial establishments and services necessary to support adjacent residential areas.

j. To provide for the layout of new streets, pedestrian ways and other public improvements necessary to support the redevelopment of the area.

k. To enhance the neighborhood preservation goals, particularly in the Germantown and Buena Vista National Register Historic Districts and the Phillips-Jackson Street neighborhood southwest of the intersection of Eighth Avenue North and Jefferson Streets.


The ultimate objective of the Land Use Plan is to create an environment conducive to the development and improvement of commercial and residential neighborhoods in the vicinity of the Bicentennial Mall, a project of the State of Tennessee. The various proposals of the Plan have been adopted to remove the conditions which have created or contributed to the substandard character of improvements and social conditions in the Project Area and restore the vitality of the area through redevelopment and rehabilitation. It is intended that these actions will be implemented over time and be coordinated with the needs of existing businesses and residents so that undue hardship or displacement is minimized. Where displacement or relocation is necessary, businesses or residents should not be forced to relocate until suitable replacement properties are found and a reasonable time is permitted for relocation. Specific actions necessary to achieve these objective[s] of area improvement are:

a. The acquisition of land through negotiation, condemnation, or otherwise for public purposes; for private infill development where the condition of title, the diverse ownership of real property to be assembled, street or lot layouts, or other conditions prevent a proper development of the property in accordance with the Land Use Plan and neighborhood needs; and for the purpose of removing, preventing, or reducing blight.

b. Demolition, clearance and relocation as necessary within the Project Area to achieve the objectives of the Plan.

c. Closing, vacating, or relocating various streets, alleys, pedestrian ways, or utilities.

d. To provide for and construct improved streets, alleys, public facilities, open spaces, and pedestrian ways.

e. Negotiation of agreements with developers to undertake redevelopment of property in accordance with the Land Use Plan.

The Eatons do not challenge the process by which the Phillips-Jackson Street Plan was considered and initially adopted. Indeed, they do not challenge the characterization of the property surrounding them as "blighted" as that term is defined by statute. The Eatons appeal the process by which MDHA condemned their particular parcels for inclusion in the redevelopment

216 S.W.3d 331

plan, and the steps the agency took after the original order of possession, which they allege constitute an illegal effort to circumvent their right to develop their own property.


The adoption of the Phillips-Jackson Street Redevelopment Plan in 1993 and its amendment in 1999 did not affect the Eatons' property immediately. Acquisitions progressed as funds became available. By February of 2001, MDHA, which had partnered with the non-profit developer Affordable Housing Resources, Inc. (AHR), was poised to acquire the three parcels which are the subject of this law suit. According to testimony at the 2001 condemnation hearing, Mr. Eaton first noticed an article in the Valentine's Day 2001 issue of The City Paper describing MDHA's efforts in redeveloping the area encompassing his property. According to Mr. Eaton, this article was the first he knew of the perils immediately posed to his property by the Phillips-Jackson Street Plan. Mr. Eaton then contacted MDHA to confirm the story. On February 16, 2001, Joseph B. Cain, senior real estate officer at MDHA, informed Mr. Eaton by letter that his property was marked for condemnation for redevelopment purposes:

Dear Mr. Eaton:

Affordable Housing Resources, Inc., working through Ms. Vicki Saito and Grubb Ellis-Centennial Properties has attempted to acquire your property located on 8th and 9th Avenues North. The Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency, per the Board Meeting of February 13, 2001 voted to partner with Affordable Housing Resources, Inc. to redevelop the site between 8th and 9th Avenues N. which include your property listed above.

Your property is located in the Phillips-Jackson Redevelopment Area, and as such is subject to acquisition by MDHA for redevelopment purposes. Should we not be able to reach an agreement to acquire your property, MDHA will take your property by eminent domain and it will be necessary for you to move.

On April 5, 2001, Mr. Cain, accompanied by the director of development at MDHA, met personally with Mr. Eaton. At this meeting, the following letter was hand delivered:

Dear Mr. Eaton:

We have received the fair market value of your property listed above from the appraisers. Based on these values, we are offering to purchase your property for $310,000. Please consider this offer and let me know of your decision to accept or reject the offer. If we are unable to mutually agree upon a purchase price, MDHA will file eminent domain procedures to acquire the property.

Please call me to discuss the offer. I may be reached at 252-8404. If I do not hear from you within 10 days, we will assume you have rejected our offer.

Additionally, this letter is to serve as official notice to vacate the property. Effective today, you have 90 days to vacate the property (July 5, 2001). You had mentioned that you have another lot onto which you may move your inventory. Should you need assistance in locating a new site, I will be available to assist you in finding a new site. We...

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1 practice notes
  • Knoxville Cmty. Dev. Corp. v. Orchard Entm't Grp., No. E2019-01831-COA-R3-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Tennessee
    • October 9, 2020
    ...project in an urban renewal plan is a legitimate basis for a taking when there is diverse ownership of the parcels. See MDHA v. Eaton, 216 S.W.3d 327, 342 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2007). Thus, according to KCDC, even if OEG were able to remove all of the blighting conditions, it would still be neces......
1 cases
  • Knoxville Cmty. Dev. Corp. v. Orchard Entm't Grp., No. E2019-01831-COA-R3-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Tennessee
    • October 9, 2020
    ...project in an urban renewal plan is a legitimate basis for a taking when there is diverse ownership of the parcels. See MDHA v. Eaton, 216 S.W.3d 327, 342 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2007). Thus, according to KCDC, even if OEG were able to remove all of the blighting conditions, it would still be neces......

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