Vill. of New Holland v. Murphy, 19CA32

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
Citation176 N.E.3d 309
Docket NumberNo. 19CA32,19CA32
Parties Village of NEW HOLLAND, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Michael J. MURPHY, Defendant-Appellant.
Decision Date29 July 2021

James R. Kingsley, Kingsley Law Office, Circleville, Ohio, for Appellant.

Jack D'Aurora and John M. Gonzales, The Behal Law Group LLC, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellee.


Smith, P.J.

{¶1} This is an appeal from a Pickaway County Court of Common Pleas post-remand judgment entry granting Appellee, Village of New Holland's, motion for a permanent injunction seeking to enjoin Appellant, Michael Murphy, from operating an automotive repair business from his residence in violation of the village's zoning ordinances. On appeal, Appellant contends that 1) the trial court committed prejudicial error when it denied him a de novo hearing upon remand by depriving him of the right to present additional evidence and arguments; 2) the trial court committed prejudicial error when it found equitable estoppel defenses did not apply; and 3) the trial court committed prejudicial error when it found laches did not apply.

{¶2} Because we find no merit to any of the assignments of error raised by Murphy, they are all overruled. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.


{¶3} In our prior consideration of this matter, we set forth the following pertinent facts:

On August 30, 2017, Appellant, Village of New Holland, filed a complaint for injunction against Appellee, Michael Murphy. Appellee's wife was later joined as a party to the lawsuit. The complaint alleged Appellant was entitled to a permanent injunction pursuant to R.C. 713.13 barring Appellees from operating a business on their property, which was located in a residential district. The complaint further alleged that Appellees had "applied for and received a purported ‘conditional use permit’ for the property" on January 30, 2002, but that the conditional use permit (hereinafter "CUP") did not specify that Appellees were permitted to run a business on their residential property. Appellants further alleged that Appellees’ business, which involves the repair of lawn and garden equipment and tractors, was a prohibited use on residential property, and that a variance, as opposed to a CUP, would have been required under the zoning code. Appellants alleged further deficiencies in the process that resulted in the issuance of the purported CUP, however, as those issues are not pertinent to our disposition on appeal, we do not include them. Appellant thereafter filed a motion for a preliminary and permanent injunction, the basis of which appeared to be increased wear and tear and road damage the village attributed to heavy equipment being driven to and from Appellees’ business. Appellees’ position regarding the basis for the request for the injunction was that Appellant could not use zoning ordinances to enforce weight restrictions on streets.
Appellees filed an answer asserting multiple defenses and a general denial of the allegations of the complaint. During the course of the litigation, Appellees filed an exhibit, which was a document entitled "Conditional Use Permit On Property Of Michael Murphy And Ruth Murphy." The document specified it applied to Appellees’ residential address, which was zoned "R1 & R2[,]" single family homes and two family homes, respectively. The document was signed by four members of the zoning board and was dated January 30, 2002.
The matter eventually proceeded to a bench trial. Various witnesses testified, including several of Appellees’ neighbors and then-members of the zoning board, regarding their recollections as to when Appellees initially obtained the purported CUP back in 2002. Because most of this witness testimony relates to the deficiencies regarding the issuance of the purported CUP, as alleged in the complaint and which we have ultimately determined not to be pertinent to this appeal, we do not include it here. Of importance to the within matter, however, Mr. Murphy testified at trial. Of relevance, he testified that he was actually a member of the zoning board at the time he applied for the CUP in 2002. He testified that he recused himself from the meeting and did not vote on his application.
He testified he believed he had been granted a CUP that permitted him to both build a new garage on his residential property, and to also conduct his repair business from that garage. Importantly, he testified that he was unaware if a resolution was ever passed granting him a CUP and he was unable to produce any evidence indicating a resolution had been passed. He further testified that he had applied for the CUP so that he could downsize his existing business and relocate it to his residential property. He further testified that as a result of the issuance of the CUP, he was issued a building permit, which led to him to build an additional garage on his residential property. He testified that his repair business is currently his only source of income.
Clair Betzco, Jr., mayor of the village, testified on behalf of Appellant. He testified that despite a thorough search, the only document he could find regarding the CUP at issue was the document filed by Appellees, as referenced above. He stated he found it in the village administrator's filing cabinet in an unmarked folder in 2017, but that it should have been in the clerk's office in a filing cabinet marked "Permit Uses." Incidentally, there was testimony introduced at trial indicating Mr. Murphy may have actually served as Village Administrator in 2002. Mavis Yourchuck, Village Clerk, also testified for Appellant. She testified that she physically handed Mr. Murphy the document purporting to be a conditional use permit. She also testified, however, that council meeting minutes from February 11, 2002, just twelve days after the CUP was purportedly issued, indicated the CUP was stopped.
After hearing the trial testimony and considering post-trial arguments submitted by the parties, the trial court ultimately issued a decision denying Appellant's request for a permanent injunction. It is from that judgment that Appellant now brings its timely appeal, setting forth two assignments of error for our review.

Village of New Holland v. Murphy , 4th Dist. Pickaway No. 18CA6, 2019-Ohio-2423, ¶ 3-7, 2019 WL 2526568.

{¶4} This Court ultimately found merit to both assignments of error raised by the Village in the first appeal, finding that the trial court erred by applying the wrong standard of review as well as the wrong burden of proof. Id. at ¶ 30. More specifically, we found that the trial court erred in handling the matter as if it was an administrative appeal, rather than simply as an initial request for an injunction based upon a statutory violation. Id. at ¶ 20. In conducting a de novo review of the trial court's order for legal error, we determined that the Village was prejudiced by the trial court's presumption throughout its decision that the CUP at issue was, in fact, valid. Id. We further found that the zoning ordinance at issue required a resolution to be passed in connection with the issuance of a CUP and that because no resolution was passed, the CUP was actually invalid. Id. As such, we reversed the judgment of the trial court and remanded the matter for the limited purpose of having the trial court apply the correct standard of review and the correct burden of proof. Id. at ¶ 30.

{¶5} On remand, it appears Murphy believed he was entitled to present additional evidence and raise new legal arguments, and as a result, he filed a motion for an oral hearing. The trial court denied this request and instead entered judgment in favor of the Village, finding in accordance with this Court's decision that there was no resolution ever passed finalizing the CUP and therefore that the CUP was never valid or final. Murphy filed a proffer of the evidence he claimed he was entitled to present, and also filed an appeal to this Court. This matter is now before us for a second time, this time as a result of an appeal filed by Murphy, rather than the Village. On appeal, Murphy raises three assignments of error for our review, as follows.



{¶6} In his first assignment of error, Murphy contends the trial court committed prejudicial error when it denied him a de novo hearing upon remand by depriving him of the right to present additional evidence and arguments. He raises multiple arguments under this assignment of error, as follows: 1) "[t]he trial judge mistakenly believed that he was bound by the erroneous law of the case"; 2) "[t]he lack of a Zoning Appeals Board resolution is not fatal"; 3) "Village Council minutes were ultra vires"; 4) "[i]f not ultra vires, there was no resolution staying/adopting or denying the CUP or it was conditional without further action"; and 5) "Appellant was the target of illegal, unlawful selective zoning enforcement to enforce a road weight limit dispute." The State responds by arguing that Murphy's first four arguments raised under this assignment of error simply reflect his attempt to have the trial court decide a question of law on remand that this Court had already decided in the first appeal. The State further contends that Murphy's fifth argument, which argues he was the target of selective zoning enforcement, constitutes an affirmative defense that was never raised at the trial court level and was thus waived.

{¶7} We agree with the State's assessment that the first four arguments raised under this assignment of error directly challenge the correctness of this Court...

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