Willowmet Homeowners Ass'n, Inc. v. City of Brentwood, M2012-01315-COA-R3-CV

CourtCourt of Appeals of Tennessee
Docket NumberNo. M2012-01315-COA-R3-CV,M2012-01315-COA-R3-CV
Decision Date16 May 2013


No. M2012-01315-COA-R3-CV


February 20, 2013 Session
Filed May 16, 2013

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Williamson County
No. 2011337
Timothy L. Easter, Judge

The homeowners' association of a residential subdivision in Brentwood, Tennessee seeks just compensation from the City of Brentwood for loss of property rights in a portion of the subdivision's open space. The City acquired the property by purchasing it from the developers of the subdivision without the Association's knowledge. The Declaration of Protection Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions of the subdivision, which the developers drafted and of which the City was on notice, states that the developers "will deed the completed Open Space on the subject Properties to the Association free and clear of any encumbrances before the first Lot is conveyed to a Lot Owner." Although they sold the first individual lot in 2001, the developers did not convey any of the open space to the homeowners' association until after the sale to the City. This action by the homeowners' association ensued. The trial court summarily dismissed the action on the City's motion, finding the homeowners' association did not own a compensable property right in the Open Space when it was sold to the City. We have determined the homeowner's association had an equitable interest in the Open Space pursuant to the Declaration of Protective Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions when it was sold to the City; therefore, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court
Reversed and Remanded

FRANK G. CLEMENT, JR., J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which PATRICIA J. COTTRELL, P.J., M.S., and RICHARD H. DINKINS, J., joined.

Suzette Peyton, Brentwood, Tennessee, for the appellant, Willowmet Homeowners Association, Inc.

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Teresa Reall Ricks, and E. Leith Marsh, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, City of Brentwood, Tennessee.


In 2000 and 2001, two land development entities, Centex Homes and Tiara Development, LLC ("the Developers," or individually by name), developed Willowmet, a residential subdivision located on Concord Road in Brentwood, Tennessee. The Developers recorded a Declaration of Protective Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions for Willowmet ("the Declaration") with the Williamson County Register of Deeds office on August 24, 2001.

Pursuant to the Declaration, the Developers incorporated the Willowmet Homeowner's Association ("the Association") on December 19, 2001.1 The Declaration also mandated that the Developers convey to the Association all of the Open Space of Willowmet prior to the sale of the first lot to a Lot Owner.2 The first lot was conveyed to an individual lot owner on March 28, 2002; however, the Developers did not convey any of the Open Space to the Association until 2011.

In the interim, the City of Brentwood ("the City") informed the Developers that it planned to widen Concord Road, a public road along Willowmet, and that to do so the City needed to acquire a portion of the Open Space from each Developer. The title search conducted on behalf of the City prior to the purchase of the property revealed that the property was subject to the Declaration on file with the Williamson County Register of Deeds.

On October 12, 2010, Tiara Development executed a "Right-of-Way And Easement Conveyance" in favor of the City for a tract of land identified as "Tract 77," in exchange for

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$3,675.00. On October 27, 2010, the successor-in-interest to Centex Homes, Pulte Home Corporation, executed a "Right-of-Way and Easement Conveyance," in favor of the City for a tract of land identified at "Tract 86," in exchange for $20,300.00.3

Both documents evidencing the conveyances state:

Grantor covenant [sic] that it is lawfully seized and possessed of the real estate described in the conveyance, and has a good and lawful right to convey the same, and that the title thereto is unencumbered, and Grantor will forever warrant and defend the same against the lawful claims of all persons whatsoever.

The City promptly recorded both deeds with the Williamson County Register of Deeds. Thereafter, the Developers conveyed the remaining Open Space to the Association by executing a series of quit-claim deeds in 2010 and 2011.4

On June 17, 2011, the Association filed this action in the Williamson County Circuit Court, asserting numerous claims against the City and seeking compensation for the Association's lost property rights in Tract 77 and Tract 86. The City is the only defendant; the Developers were not named as defendants.5

The Association asserts that it had an equitable interest in the Open Space prior to its conveyance to the City, that the City had actual and constructive notice of the Association's

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equitable interest in the property, and that the City's purchase of the property from the Developers constitutes a taking of the Association's equitable interest for which the Association is entitled to just compensation pursuant to the inverse condemnation statute, Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-16-123.6 The Association does not seek ejectment or recovery of the property, only compensation for the value of its lost property interests.

The parties filed competing motions for summary judgment, which were argued before the trial court on April 9, 2012. The trial court determined that the inverse condemnation statute, Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-16-123, did not apply because the City obtained the property in question under color of title. The trial court further concluded that if the City's color of title did not bar the inverse condemnation statute, summary judgment was still proper as a matter of law because the Association did not own any compensable property rights in the Open Space conveyed to the City. The Association challenges these holdings, the denial of its motion for partial summary judgment, and the summary dismissal of its claims against the City.


Summary judgment does not enjoy a presumption of correctness on appeal. BellSouth Adver. & Publ'g Co. v. Johnson, 100 S.W.3d 202, 205 (Tenn. 2003). Because the resolution of a motion for summary judgment is a matter of law, we review the trial court's judgment de novo with no presumption of correctness. Martin v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co., 271 S.W.3d 76, 84 (Tenn. 2008). The appellate court makes a fresh determination that the requirements of Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 56 have been satisfied. Hunter v. Brown, 955 S.W.2d 49, 50-51 (Tenn. 1977). As does the trial court, the appellate court considers the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and resolves all inferences in that party's favor. Martin, 271 S.W.3d at 84; Stovall v. Clarke, 113 S.W.3d 715, 721 (Tenn. 2003); Godfrey v. Ruiz, 90 S.W.3d 692, 695 (Tenn. 2002). When reviewing the evidence, the appellate court first determines whether factual disputes exist. Byrd v. Hall, 847 S.W.2d 208, 214-15 (Tenn. 1993). If a factual dispute exists, the court then determines whether the fact is material to the claim or defense upon which the summary judgment is predicated and whether the disputed fact creates a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 215.

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The Constitution of Tennessee states that no person's property shall be taken, or applied to public use, "without the consent of his representatives, or without just compensation being made therefore." Tenn. Const. art. I, § 21. This constitutional provision recognizes the governmental right of eminent domain and the prohibition from taking property for public use without paying just compensation. See Jackson v. Metro. Knoxville Airport Auth., 922 S.W.2d 860, 861 (Tenn. 1996). The procedure for the exercise of the governmental right of eminent domain and the rights of private citizens to challenge such government action are also codified. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 29-16-101 to 29-16-127; 29-17-101 to 29-17-1004.


Inverse condemnation was explained by our Tennessee Supreme Court in Edwards v. Hallsdale-Powell Utility District Knox County, Tennessee, 115 S.W.3d 461 (Tenn. 2003), as follows:

"Inverse condemnation" is the popular description for a cause of action brought by a property owner to recover the value of real property that has been taken for public use by a governmental defendant even though no formal condemnation proceedings have been instituted. See Johnson v. City of Greeneville, 435 S.W.2d 476, 478 (Tenn. 1968). A "taking" of real property occurs when a governmental defendant with the power of eminent domain performs an authorized action that "destroys, interrupts, or interferes with the common and necessary use of the real property of another." Pleasant View Util. Dist. v. Vradenburg, 545 S.W.2d 733, 735 (Tenn. 1977).

Edwards, 115 S.W.3d at 464.

The Tennessee General Assembly codified a property owner's right of action for inverse condemnation at Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-16-123, which reads:

(a) If, however, such person or company has actually taken possession of such land, occupying it for

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