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Williams v. Town of Spencer

June 16, 1998

JOHN WILLIAMS AND INEZ WILLIAMS, PETITIONERS-APPELLANTS
v.
TOWN OF SPENCER, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Walker, Judge

Appeal by petitioners from order entered 8 July 1997 by Judge Henry E. Frye, Jr. in Rowan County Superior Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 30 April 1998.

Petitioners are the owners of Williams Shady Grove Mobile Home Park located within the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the Town of Spencer (the Town). The mobile home park consists of approximately thirty-five spaces which are typically leased by residents who own their own mobile homes. The mobile home park is located in an area zoned industrial which excludes mobile home parks; however, as the property has been continuously used as a mobile home park, it is permitted as a non-conforming use.

Under its zoning ordinance, the Town treats each individual lot as a separate non-conforming use. Therefore, when a resident vacates a lot, the Town refuses to issue a building permit to replace the mobile home with another. Due to this inability to obtain permits for replacement mobile homes, the park had at least eleven empty spaces at the initiation of this action.

On 22 July 1996, the Town's land management director denied a building permit to set up a manufactured home on one of the empty lots in the petitioners' mobile home park. By letter dated 2 August 1996, the petitioners appealed this decision to the Town's Zoning Board of Adjustment (the Board) on the grounds that "a non-conforming mobile home park may not be put out of existence or reduced in size by denial of the building permits...so long as the park as a whole continues to operate [as] such action by the municipality is an unconstitutionally arbitrary and capricious taking."

The Board issued a decision affirming the land management director's decision to deny the building permit. The petitioners then obtained a writ of certiorari and the trial court reviewed the Board's decision. After considering the record and the Town's zoning ordinance, the trial court affirmed the Board's decision.

The petitioners argue that the Town's ordinance denying continuation of the existing non-conforming use (the mobile home park) is unconstitutional on the following grounds: (1) the ordinance is unconstitutionally vague and ambiguous; (2) the ordinance is unconstitutionally arbitrary and capricious and (3) the ordinance constitutes a taking without just compensation.

From the record in this case, there is evidence that the petitioners alleged, in their initial appeal of the land management directors's decision, that the portion of the Town's ordinance was arbitrary and capricious and therefore unconstitutional. Thus, we address this case on the basis that the constitutional issues are properly before this Court; however, we nonetheless find the Town's ordinance to be valid.

We first note the portion of the Town's zoning ordinance in question specifically addresses the circumstances here in Article IV, § 15(E) and provides:

Continuation of manufactured home parks. Manufactured home parks that become nonconforming uses shall be permitted to continue operation subject to the following stipulations:

• Nonconforming manufactured home parks may not be expanded or increased in size nor shall any additional spaces be added to the site;

• When a site at a nonconforming manufactured home park is vacated, another manufactured home may not be placed on that site;

• A nonconforming manufactured home park that is discontinued for one hundred eighty (180) days shall not be reestablished. Vacancy and/or non-use of the park, regardless of the intent of the owner, shall constitute discontinuance under this provision;

• If any existing nonconforming manufactured home on a conforming lot is removed, it shall only be replaced with a conforming structure or building;

• If a nonconforming manufactured home is abandoned for a period of more than one hundred eighty (180) days, the rehabitation of the manufactured home shall be prohibited. The date of abandonment shall be that date at ...


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