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Edwards v. City of Warner Robins

Supreme Court of Georgia

October 30, 2017

EDWARDS et al.
v.
CITY OF WARNER ROBINS et al.

          NAHMIAS, JUSTICE.

         This case presents challenges to a municipal zoning ordinance. Because the property owners have abandoned their claim that the ordinance was unconstitutionally enacted and have not shown that it is unconstitutionally vague as applied to them or that it unconstitutionally interferes with their property rights, we affirm the superior court's grant of summary judgment to the city.

         1. In 1973, Charles Edwards acquired 794 Oak Avenue in the City of Warner Robins ("the City"). This property was subdivided into three lots, each with a mobile home that he and his wife, Carol Edwards, rent out; they also have sometimes lived in one of the homes. In June 1997, the Edwardses ("Appellants") bought properties adjoining 794 Oak Avenue: 790, 791, and 793 Oak Avenue, which together comprise seven acres with 36 lots. Each lot either had a mobile home on it or was being held out for use by a mobile home. Appellants allege that they purchased these properties for use as a "manufactured home park." At the time of the 1997 purchase, however, mobile homes were prohibited on the properties by the restrictions of the City's Base Environs Overlay District (BEOD) ordinance, except where permitted as a legal nonconforming use.

         The City Council added the BEOD to the City's overall zoning ordinance on February 22, 1994, with the enactment of Ordinance 12-94. As explained in § 74.4 of the zoning ordinance, the BEOD is "an overlay district that applies additional standards and requirements to properties located within an underlying zoning district." Section 74.4.1 explains that:

Proposed developments located within this zoning district shall comply with these requirements and the requirements of the underlying zoning district and any other overlay districts that apply to lands within this zone. In the case of conflicting standards and requirements, the more stringent standards and requirements shall apply.

         That section also lists the purposes of the BEOD:

To protect the public health, safety, and welfare by regulating development and land uses within noise sensitive areas and accident potential zones;
To ensure compatibility between and surrounding land uses and Robins Air Force Base; and
To protect RAFB from encroachment by incompatible development.

         Table 74.4-A was adopted as part of the BEOD ordinance, and it prohibited "manufactured housing" or "mobile homes" in the district.[1]

         Section 74.4.4.1 provides an exemption to the BEOD restrictions for existing uses:

Uses existing on the effective date of these regulations shall not be required to change in order to comply with the requirements specified herein. The nonconforming use requirements of these regulations shall apply to the future applicability of the standards and requirements contained herein.

         The nonconforming use rules are laid out in §§ 61.5 and 61.6 of the City's zoning ordinance. Section 61.5.1 says, "No such nonconforming uses shall be enlarged or increased, nor extended to occupy a greater area of land than was occupied at the effective date of adoption or amendment of these regulations." Section 61.5.4 says, "No additional structures not conforming to the requirements of these regulations shall be erected in connection with such nonconforming use of land." And Section 61.6.2 says that if a nonconforming structure is "destroyed by any means to the extent of more than fifty (50) percent of its current replacement value, it shall not be reconstructed except in conformity with the provisions of these regulations."[2]

         It is undisputed that all of Appellants' Oak Avenue properties are within the Base Environs Overlay District. The three mobile homes on the 794 Oak Avenue lots have been permitted since 1994 as nonconforming uses. In July 1997, Appellants asked the City for rezoning of their other Oak Avenue lots, ...


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