Caffey v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville & Davidson Cty.

No. M2012-00883-COA-R3-CV, 2013 Tenn. App. LEXIS 387 (Ct. App. June 11, 2013)



In accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. § 13-7-207(3), Nashville, Tenn., Metropolitan Code § 17.40.370 requires that the board of zoning appeals make an affirmative finding on the following standards: the physical characteristics of the property; that the specific conditions are unique to the subject property; that the hardship is not self-imposed; that financial gain is not the only basis for the variance; the variance will not be injurious to the neighboring property; there will be no harm to the public welfare; and the grant of the variance will not compromise the design integrity or operation of an approved planned unit development. The physical characteristic standard tracks the language of § 13-7-207 by including in the standard's description exceptional or undue hardship upon the owner of such property upon the strict application of any regulation enacted by the ordinance.


The previous owner of Elizabeth Blair’s property received a variance allowing him to build a carport up to 1' from the side property line; however, he built the carport to the property line. Ms. Blair purchased the property in 1987 and, in late 2008 or early 2009, hired a builder to enclose the carport, thereby creating an enclosed room. Her neighbor, Rosalyn L. Caffey, complained to the Metropolitan Department of Codes that Ms. Blair was building without a permit, as a result of which a stop work order was issued, leading Ms. Blair to file a request for a variance from the minimum setback requirement with the Board of Zoning Appeals ("BZA"). The BZA granted the variance. Ms. Caffey then filed a complaint in Chancery Court seeking review of the BZA's actions; the case proceeded as a certiorari review of the BZA's grant of the variance. The trial court affirmed the decision of the BZA and dismissed the petition. Ms. Caffey appealed.


May a zoning board properly exercise its authority by granting a remodeling variance to a landowner whose pre-existing building had been granted a variance, even though the footprint had exceeded the earlier variance?




In accordance with § 13-7-207(3), Metropolitan Code § 17.40.370 on BZA’s mandate, the court held that the evidence supported the BZA's grant of variance. Ms. Blair testified that she spent "over $37,000 in home improvements" and that she did not know "anything about the property line." Moreover, it was shown that the “1' variance from the side yard” requirement was granted in 1982 allowing for the construction of the carport, that the carport built in 1982 was on the side property line, and that Ms. Blair's addition did not exceed the "footprint of the original variance that was granted."

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