Teefey,And Agri-Lawn, Inc., v. Board Of Zoning Adj.

Decision Date27 June 2000
Citation24 S.W.3d 681
Parties(Mo.banc 2000) . Supreme Court of Missouri State ex rel. James S. Teefey and Agri-Lawn, Inc., Respondents, v. Board of Zoning Adjustment of Kansas City, Missouri, et al., Appellants. Case Number: SC82061 Handdown Date: 0
CourtMissouri Supreme Court

Appeal From: Circuit Court of Jackson County, Hon. David W. Shinn

Counsel for Appellant: Patricia R. Jensen and Walter J. O'Toole

Counsel for Respondent: Matthew K. Partin and William C. Partin

Opinion Summary:

James Teefey's home and his landscape and nursery business are on property zoned RA (agriculture). He dumps grass and twigs for compost. He was cited for operating a sanitary landfill in violation of zoning ordinances. The court reversed the zoning board's decision that affirmed the citation. The board appealed.

REVERSED AND REMANDED.

Court en banc holds: The board's decision that Teefey operated a sanitary landfill on property zoned RA was lawful and supported by competent and substantial evidence.

(1) Whether yard waste from more than one household is simply disposed of in a sanitary landfill or processed in a solid waste processing facility, which includes a compost facility, the city council intended to locate such facilities, which may affect adjoining properties, only in districts zoned MR (materials reprocessing). Such uses are not permitted in RA districts.

(2) Although the zoning ordinances implicitly include yard waste within the definition of "solid waste," they are not in conflict with the statutes, even though the statutes make a distinction between the two types of wastes. The statutes do not purport to address prohibiting Teefey from dumping solid waste/yard waste on MR property.

Opinion Author: PER CURIAM1

Opinion Vote: REVERSED AND REMANDED. Limbaugh, Covington, White, Wolff and Benton, JJ., and Simon and Crandall, Sp.JJ., concur. Price, C.J., and Holstein, J., not participating.

Opinion:

The Board of Zoning Adjustment of Kansas City, Missouri (BZA), appeals the judgment of the circuit court reversing its affirmance of a Codes Administration Department (CAD) citation against James Teefey and Agri-Lawn, Inc. (Respondents) for operating a sanitary landfill on their property. The BZA contends that the circuit court erred in reversing its decision because the decision was authorized by law and was supported by competent and substantial evidence. After opinion by the Court of Appeals, Western District, this Court granted transfer. Mo. Const. art. V, sec. 10; Rule 83.03. The judgment of the trial court is reversed, and the cause is remanded to the circuit court for entry of judgment affirming the BZA's decision.

James Teefey owns 36 acres of property located at 1515 East 131st Street in Kansas City. The property is zoned district RA (agriculture). Mr. Teefey's home as well as his landscape and nursery business, Agri-Lawn, Inc., is located on this property. Agri-Lawn grows various trees, shrubs, and plants on the property for sale and provides landscaping and lawncare services.

In response to a complaint filed by a neighbor regarding dumping on Respondents' property and the resulting noise, pollution and odors, the CAD inspected Respondents' property on February 21, 1996. The inspection revealed that Respondents "dump grass clippings [and] twigs for compost" on the property. Pursuant to the inspection, the CAD issued a notice of violation of zoning ordinances to Respondents on April 4, 1996. The citation charged, "This property is being used for sanitary landfill in a district zoned RA. Such uses are first allowed within a MR zoning district." The citation listed the date of violation as February 21, 1996.2

Respondents appealed the citation to the BZA on April 19, 1996. Hearings were held on Respondents' appeal on May 28 and August 23, 1996. On August 29, 1996, the BZA upheld the CAD decision that the Respondents' property was being used as a sanitary landfill in district RA in violation of zoning ordinances. Thereafter, Respondents filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the circuit court for review of the BZA's decision. On March 13, 1997, the circuit court found that insufficient evidence existed to support the BZA's determination that Respondents maintained a sanitary landfill on their property on February 21, 1996, and remanded the case to the BZA for further evidentiary hearings on the issue.

A third hearing was held before the BZA on September 12, 1997. At the hearing, Mr. Teefey testified that grass clippings, leaves, twigs, and small shrubs are deposited in a compost pile on the property for recycling. Some of the waste is produced from the property, itself, but other waste comes from the properties of Respondents' ten commercial customers and approximately 150 residential customers. Mr. Teefey admitted that although he periodically turns or moves the pile, he does not "wet" it or add chemicals to it.3 Mr. Teefey also admitted that he does not haul the waste from his customers' properties to a specified dump, but instead dumps it on his own property to avoid dumping fees. Following the hearing on remand, the BZA again upheld the decision of the CAD that Respondents were operating a sanitary landfill on their property in violation of zoning ordinances.

Respondents filed a petition for writ of certiorari for review of the BZA's decision on September 17, 1997. After reviewing the transcripts and evidence in the case, the circuit court found that the BZA's affirmance of the CAD citation was not supported by competent and substantial evidence on the record. Specifically, the court determined that "little, if any evidence" was presented that Respondents operated a sanitary landfill on their property on February 21, 1996. The court, therefore, reversed the decision of the BZA affirming the CAD citation.

On appeal, the BZA claims that the circuit court erred in reversing its decision affirming the CAD citation against Respondents because its decision was authorized by law and was supported by competent and substantial evidence. Specifically, the BZA contends that the grass, leaves, and twigs found on Respondents' property on February 21, 1996, constituted "solid waste" within the definition of a sanitary landfill in the zoning ordinances. Respondents contend, on the other hand, that the BZA's decision was unlawful in that the materials found in the compost pile on their property constituted "yard waste," which is separate and distinct from "solid waste" under the zoning ordinances and Missouri statutes.

An appellate court reviews the findings and conclusions of the BZA and not the judgment of the trial court. State ex rel. Columbus Park Community Council v. Board of Zoning Adjustment of Kansas City, 864 S.W.2d 437, 440 (Mo. App. 1993). The scope of review is limited to determination of "whether the Board's action is supported by competent and substantial evidence upon the whole record or whether it is arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, unlawful, or in excess of its jurisdiction." Hutchens v. St. Louis County, 848 S.W.2d 616, 617 (Mo. App. 1993). In determining whether substantial evidence existed to support the BZA's decision, an appellate court must view the evidence and reasonable inferences therefrom in a light most favorable to the decision. Columbus Park, 864 S.W.2d at 440. In reviewing the legality of the decision, the reviewing court should hold the decision to be illegal and void if the BZA exceeds the authority granted to it. Id. A question of law is a matter for the independent judgment of the reviewing court. Id.

In construing city ordinances, an appellate court applies the same general rules of construction as are applicable to state statutes. Matthews v. City of Jennings, 978 S.W.2d 12, 15 (Mo. App. 1998). The cardinal rule for construing ordinances is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the enacting legislative body. City of Sugar Creek v. Reese, 969 S.W.2d 888, 891 (Mo. App. 1998). Words contained in an ordinance should be given their plain and ordinary meaning and should be interpreted to avoid absurd results. McCollum v. Director of Revenue, 906 S.W.2d 368, 369 (Mo. banc 1995); Law v. City of Maryville, 933 S.W.2d 873, 876 (Mo. App. 1996). Where a phrase or term is specifically defined by ordinance, such particular definition is binding on the court and must be given effect. Matthews, 978 S.W.2d at 15.

The purpose of district MR (materials reprocessing district) under the Kansas City, Missouri, zoning ordinances is "to identify and appropriately locate uses which involve the recovery and reclamation of materials and the processing or reprocessing of waste and other similar uses which may affect adjoining properties." Kansas City, Mo., Code of Ordinances, section 80-203(a)(1)(1994). Two uses permitted in a MR district include a sanitary landfill and a solid waste processing facility. Sections 80-203(c)(6) and (7). Section 80-203(c)(6) defines the term "sanitary landfill" as "an area of land used for disposing of solid waste." Section 80-203(c)(6). The term "solid waste" is defined as:

garbage, refuse or other discarded materials, including but not limited to solid or semisolid waste materials resulting from industrial, commercial, agricultural, governmental and domestic activities, but does not include hazardous waste, special waste, incinerator ash, recovered materials, overburden, rock, tailings, matte, slag or waste material resulting from mining, milling or smelting.

Section 80-203(c)(6). A "solid...

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