Local governments are authorized, by Tenn. Code Ann. § 13-7-201, to enact zoning ordinances for the purpose of promoting the public health, safety, morals, convenience, order, prosperity and general welfare. When a local governing body enacts a zoning ordinance, it is acting in a legislative capacity. Thus, the appellate court's review of such legislative action is very limited.
The city approved an application by defendant landowner to change the zoning for his property so that he could operate a towing business. Plaintiffs, who lived near defendant's property, filed a declaratory judgment action seeking to invalidate the re-zoning ordinance on the grounds that it constitutes illegal "spot zoning," and that the re-zoned area was improperly classified in violation of the local general zoning ordinance. The trial court upheld the re-zoning ordinance, finding it was enacted in furtherance of public safety goals and that the re-zoning classification was reasonable and rational. The appellate court affirmed.
Was the re-zoning classification valid, reasonable and rational?
There were no other towing businesses in the area. Defendant's business had cut emergency response times drastically. Improving public safety and the efficient allocation of law enforcement resources were rational motivations for a zoning ordinance. The Ordinance was consistent with the purposes of the 1997 General Zoning Ordinance, and well within the city's authority under Tenn. Code Ann. § 13-7-201.