MID-GEORGIA v. Meriwether County, No. S03A1487.

CourtSupreme Court of Georgia
Writing for the CourtFLETCHER, Chief Justice.
Citation277 Ga. 670,594 S.E.2d 344
Decision Date22 March 2004
Docket NumberNo. S03A1487.

594 S.E.2d 344
277 Ga. 670


No. S03A1487.

Supreme Court of Georgia.

March 22, 2004.

594 S.E.2d 345
Chamberlain, Hrdlicka, White & Williams, James L. Paul, Matthew J. McCoyd, Atlanta, Fincher & Hecht, Steven M. Fincher, Murray J. Weed, Jonesboro, for appellant

Daniel W. Lee, LaGrange, Morton, Morton & Associates, Thomas H. Morton, Zebulon, Freeman, Mathis & Gary, Dana K. Maine, Kelley R. Purdie, Atlanta, for appellees.

FLETCHER, Chief Justice.

The issue in this appeal is whether, because of an alleged procedural flaw in the 1988 enactment of Meriwether County's zoning ordinance, the County must permit Mid-Georgia Environmental Management Group, L.L.L.P., to build a solid waste landfill on land not zoned for a landfill. Following an evidentiary hearing, the trial court concluded that the County's zoning ordinance was properly enacted and that the County was entitled to rely on the plain language of the ordinance in refusing to allow the building of the landfill. Because the record supports the trial court's conclusion regarding the validity of the ordinance's enactment, we affirm.

Mid-Georgia is a limited liability limited partnership formed for the purpose of trying to build a landfill in Meriwether County. In December 1999, Mid-Georgia acquired a contract to purchase approximately 400 acres of undeveloped land in Meriwether County. In January 2000, Mid-Georgia first notified the County of its intentions to build a landfill on 240 of those acres and, pursuant to OCGA § 12-8-24(g), requested written verification that the proposed use complied with the County's zoning ordinance and solid waste management plan.1 Mid-Georgia's letter stated that it recognized that the request "is likely to be unexpected and that it proposes a use for this site which may not be in your

594 S.E.2d 346
current plans for the area." Nevertheless, Mid-Georgia stated its position that the County's zoning ordinance had not been validly adopted and therefore the County's only option was to issue the verification letter. The County responded that it had a zoning ordinance that was validly enacted in 1988 and that the land at issue was not properly zoned for a landfill. Mid-Georgia then filed an action in June 2000 against the County, its zoning administrator, and the members of the County Board of Commissioners seeking a declaratory judgment that the County's zoning ordinance was [277 Ga. 671] not validly enacted and the proposed landfill did not conflict with the Multi-Jurisdictional Solid Waste Plan. Mid-Georgia also sought a writ of mandamus requiring the County to issue the verification letter. Following an evidentiary hearing, the trial court concluded that the County's zoning ordinance had been validly enacted, that the property at issue was not properly zoned for a landfill, and that Mid-Georgia had not demonstrated that its proposed landfill was consistent with the Multi-Jurisdictional Solid Waste Plan. Accordingly, the trial court entered judgment against Mid-Georgia on the declaratory judgment action and denied the writ of mandamus

1. Before addressing the merits of the case, we first clarify a jurisdictional issue.2 Following the trial court's ruling, Mid-Georgia filed with the Court of Appeals of Georgia an application for discretionary appeal under OCGA § 5-6-35 and also filed a notice of direct appeal to this Court. The Court of Appeals correctly transferred the application to this Court because cases involving the grant or denial of mandamus are within the exclusive jurisdiction of this Court without regard to the underlying subject matter or the legal issues raised.3

The underlying subject matter, however, is relevant to determining whether a party is entitled to a direct appeal or must file an application to appeal from a mandamus action. In Ferguson v. Composite State Board of Medical Examiners,4 this Court reiterated that when both the direct and discretionary appeal statutes are implicated, the underlying subject matter controls the method of appeal. When a case involves mandamus, but also the review of an administrative agency ruling, a party must file an application to appeal.5 Thus, in Ferguson, the Court held that an application to appeal was required because the appellant was seeking review of a decision of the State Board of Medical Examiners, a state administrative agency. In contrast, this appeal involves a request, not to a county administrative agency, but directly to the County's Board of Commissioners under OCGA § 12-8-24(g).

This Court routinely accepts direct appeals of mandamus actions brought against county boards of commissioners in non-zoning [277 Ga. 672] cases.6 However, under Trend Development Corp. v. Douglas County,7 we require an application to appeal in mandamus actions brought against county boards of commissioners where the decision under review is a

594 S.E.2d 347
zoning decision.8 Thus, only if the Board of Commissioners's decision refusing to issue the verification letter was a "zoning decision" would an application be required in this case.

This Court has previously accepted direct appeals where a property owner sought mandamus to require the issuance of a letter verifying that a proposed use is consistent with zoning and land use plans.9 Furthermore, the relevant zoning decision is the one that established the zoning for the site for the proposed landfill, and no one has ever sought review of this zoning decision.10 As this Court previously noted, a case involving permitting requirements for landfills does not involve a county "enacting zoning ordinances to control use of land ..., but instead a statutory scheme requiring a permit from the State for a land use which is regulated by the State."11 Accordingly, we conclude that the decision was not a zoning decision. Therefore, Mid-Georgia was entitled to a direct appeal from the denial of its mandamus action, and this Court properly dismissed its application to appeal.12

2. Mandamus is an extraordinary remedy and is available [277 Ga. 673] against a public official only when the petitioner shows a clear legal right to the relief sought or a gross abuse of discretion.13 Mid-Georgia concedes that it is not entitled to mandamus if the County's zoning ordinance was validly enacted.

3. The Zoning Procedures Law, OCGA § 36-66-1 et seq., sets forth the requirements for a local government's enactment of a valid zoning ordinance. Prior to the adoption of a zoning ordinance the local government must provide a public hearing on the proposed ordinance and must advertise in a newspaper of general circulation the time, place, and purpose of the meeting. The same notice requirements apply to the adoption of amendments to a zoning ordinance.

The record in this case contains certified minutes of the meetings of the Board of Commissioners in 1988. These minutes show that following the first reading of a proposed zoning ordinance in February 1988, the Board held a public meeting, and, following that meeting, made changes to the proposed zoning ordinance. In March 1988, the ordinance, with the February changes incorporated, was then considered in another properly noticed public hearing at which the zoning map was available for review. Finally, on April 6, 1988, the Board considered the zoning ordinance at a noticed meeting and the Board adopted the zoning ordinance without making any other changes.

On August 17, 1988, the Board approved...

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21 cases
  • State v. Int'l Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Inc., S16A0367
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • July 5, 2016
    ...of mandamus “to compel Towns County to enforce its subdivision regulations”); Mid–Georgia Environmental Mgmt. Group v. Meriwether County, 277 Ga. 670, 671–672, 594 S.E.2d 344 (2004) (no application required to appeal from denial of writ of mandamus to compel county to send verification lett......
  • Schumacher v. City of Roswell, S16G1703.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • June 30, 2017
    ...cases that were not appealing decisions of administrative agencies. Compare Mid-Ga. Envtl. Mgmt. Grp., LLLP v. Meriwether County, 277 Ga. 670, 671-672 (1), 594 S.E.2d 344 (2004) (citing Trend rule and concluding, because no zoning decision had been made, that appellant had a right to a dire......
  • Carson v. Brown, A18A1951
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • February 20, 2019
    ...(citing Danbert v. N. Ga. Land Ventures , 287 Ga. 495, 495, 697 S.E.2d 204 (2010) ; Mid-Ga. Envt’l Mgmt. Grp. v. Meriwether Cty. , 277 Ga. 670, 671-72, 594 S.E.2d 344 (2004) ; Ga. Dep’t of Transp. v. Peach Hill Props. , 278 Ga. 198, 200, 599 S.E.2d 167 (2004) ).21 301 Ga. 635, 803 S.E.2d 66......
  • Brantley Cnty. Dev. Partners, LLC v. Brantley Cnty., CV 5:19-109
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of Georgia)
    • May 14, 2021
    ...with the same notice and hearing requirements as the adoption of a zoning ordinance." Mid Ga. Envt'l Mgmt. Grp., LLLP v. Meriwether Cnty., 277 Ga. 670, 594 S.E.2d 344, 348 (2004).17 Under both Georgia and federal law, the void-for-vagueness doctrine requires that an ordinance give a person ......
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