Summit Ridge Development Co. v. City of Independence, WD

Decision Date17 December 1991
Docket NumberNo. WD,WD
Citation821 S.W.2d 516
PartiesSUMMIT RIDGE DEVELOPMENT CO., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CITY OF INDEPENDENCE, et al., Defendant-Respondent. 44245.
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

W. Stephen Nixon, Independence, for plaintiff-appellant.

Joe F. Willerth, Alvin R. Lundgren, Independence, for defendant-respondent.

Before LOWENSTEIN, C.J., and FENNER, P.J., and ULRICH, J.

LOWENSTEIN, Chief Judge.

Summit Ridge Development Company (Summit Ridge) filed a declaratory judgment action against the City of Independence (City), seeking a determination that the City wrongfully denied a rezoning request by Summit Ridge. The trial court, after a hearing, entered an order dismissing Summit Ridge's petition and sustaining the City's action. Summit Ridge raises four points: the trial court erred because 1) its order of dismissal is against the weight of the evidence and is not supported by substantial evidence; 2) the City's action in denying the rezoning was arbitrary, unreasonable, and not supported by the record; 3) the existing zoning should have been declared unconstitutional, arbitrary, unreasonable and void since no effective use of the property is possible; and, 4) it failed to reopen the evidence and under Rule 73.01 allow for a recording of additional evidence.

The facts of the case are uncomplicated and without dispute. Summit Ridge owns property along 23rd Street in Independence. The bulk of this property is a shopping center zoned general commercial (C-2). However, north of its commercial property, Summit Ridge also owns a vacant parcel, the property in question, extending 125 feet into a large area zoned medium density residential (R-2). This property is landlocked on the east, north, and west by developed, residential lots, and on the south by the Summit Ridge Center. The R-2 zoning itself is in conformance with the City's Comprehensive Plan and the City's Thoroughfare Plan of 1977, which shows 200 foot corridors of commercial zoning along its major, arterial streets, of which 23rd is one, and residential, community, and recreational zoning behind these. Actually, in order to build its shopping center, Summit Ridge had previously applied for and received a rezoning of an additional 120 feet from R-2 property to C-2 on top of the 200 feet originally zoned commercial. Therefore, Summit Ridge already owns 325 feet of C-2 property, and another roughly 125 feet of R-2 adjacent to it. It was Summit Ridge's purpose to construct a 70' X 50' building on this vacant parcel, for storage and maintenance of parking lot and landscaping equipment, as well as for warehouse storage for Summit Ridge Center tenants.

The Independence City Code, § 14.01.008, provides for a change in current zoning called an amendment, since it involves a change in the City's zoning map. Amendments are implemented through the passage of an ordinance by the City Council. An applicant simply files a certain form with the Planning Department of the City, pays a filing fee, and attends a Planning Department hearing. The appellant Summit Ridge followed these procedures in November of 1988. The Planning Department, as per § 14.01.008, published notice of the hearing. Though not required by the city code, notice of the hearing was also sent personally to all landowners living within 185 feet of Summit Ridge's vacant parcel. A few landowners attended the meeting, and one of them, Gordon Smith, testified. At the time of the hearing, the neighbors seemed agreeable to the proposed use of the parcel, expressing only concern over a possible worsening of the storm water problem in the area. This problem had not apparently been fully addressed at the time of the building of the Summit Ridge Center, and Summit Ridge assured neighbors that if given utility easements, pipes could be laid to correct the problem. With the understanding that further questions regarding landscaping and screening, as well as the easements, would be worked out after approval of the zoning change, the Planning Department recommended approval of Summit Ridge's proposed zoning change, made a report, and prepared a transcript and findings as required by § 14.01.008. The record was then presented to the City Council, which set a hearing. Of importance to this appeal is the provision in § 14.01.008 which allows presentation to the Council of only evidence not presented at the Planning Department hearing nor reasonably available at that time.

At the City Council meeting regarding the ordinance implementing the proposed zoning amendment, several of the Council members spoke against the change. One mentioned that the rezoning was contrary to the Comprehensive Plan, and that changes should be in the public's, not the developer's interest; she did not find this change to be in the public interest. Another member indicated that this parcel was in his district, and he had received several calls from residents in the area worried about storm water problems. He further stated that he did not feel that Summit Ridge's plan would rectify these problems, and that the rezoning was against the Comprehensive Plan, and that he would vote no because of citizen opposition. A third Councilmember noted this rezoning would add 125 feet in depth to what is already in excess, due to the previous rezoning, of the Comprehensive Plan's 200 foot commercial corridor. The City Council voted unanimously to deny the rezoning.

Summit Ridge then filed this declaratory judgment action. The trial court entered an order sustaining the City's denial of rezoning, and dismissing Summit Ridge's petition. The trial court found that the City did not act in excess of its authority, the evidence before the City was adequate to support its decision, and that the City's decision was not arbitrary or capricious.

The City's denial of rezoning

Summit Ridge's first and second points on appeal are virtually identical, since both focus on the City's denial of rezoning. Summit Ridge first argues that the trial court erred in dismissing its petition for declaratory judgment, because the order was not supported by substantial evidence, and was against the weight of the evidence. In its second point, Summit Ridge maintains that the trial court erred in not declaring the City's decision to be arbitrary, unreasonable, and not supported by the "record." Since the decision of the trial court is only against the weight of the evidence if that evidence points toward arbitrary or unreasonable action by the city, both points are addressed as one. Furthermore, the same standard of appellate review applies to each.

Summit Ridge's disagreement with the City's action involves two separate arguments, the first being that the City's denial of re-zoning was arbitrary and unreasonable. The second is that the city council could consider only the "record" made before the Planning Commission, which recommended approval of the rezoning, claimed to address the storm water problem, and lacked citizen opposition.

Appellant Summit Ridge gravely misconstrues the fundamental purpose of legislative action as well as the judicial review of legislative action in this state....

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3 cases
  • State ex rel. Helujon, Ltd. v. Jefferson County, 71532
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • 10 Marzo 1998
    ...unreasonable, meaning that the decision is not 'fairly debatable.' " Heidrich, 916 S.W.2d at 248 (quoting Summit Ridge Dev. Co. v. Independence, 821 S.W.2d 516, 519 (Mo.App.1991)). If a decision bears no substantial relationship to the public health, safety, morals, or general welfare, this......
  • Fairview Enterprises v. City of Kansas City
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • 28 Agosto 2001
    ...action "only if arbitrary and unreasonable, meaning that the decision is not 'fairly debatable.'" Summit Ridge Dev. Co. v. Independence, 821 S.W.2d 516, 519 (Mo. App. 1991) (citations omitted). A decision is considered arbitrary and unreasonable if it bears no substantial relationship to th......
  • Heidrich v. City of Lee's Summit
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • 31 Mayo 2000
    ...action "only if arbitrary and unreasonable, meaning that the decision is not 'fairly debatable.'" Summit Ridge Dev. Co. v. Independence, 821 S.W.2d 516, 519 (Mo. App. 1991) (citations omitted). A decision is considered arbitrary and unreasonable if it bears no substantial relationship to th......

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