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Civil Practice – Standing – Nuisance – Zoning

Civil Practice – Standing – Nuisance – Zoning

McDowell v. Randolph County. (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-16-0714, 8 pp.) (Wanda G. Bryant, J.). Appealed from Randolph County Superior Court (Henry E. Frye, J.). N.C. App. Unpub.

Holding: The trial court erred in finding that the plaintiffs had standing to bring a claim against a lumber company operating on a tract of land beside the plaintiffs’ parcel because there was insufficient evidence to establish that their injury could be redressed by their requested removal of structures on the lumber company’s property.


Since prior to 1972, the lumber company, located on 30 acres in Randolph County, has operated a lumber mill and a timber-related activities business.

The plaintiffs acquired property adjacent to the lumber company in 1972 and 1977, respectively.

Over the years the lumber company relocated various operations on its property and sought zoning changes to accommodate its changing business operations.

The plaintiffs filed a complaint against the lumber company seeking money damages for the diminution of value to their property and abatement of operations causing a private nuisance.

A jury found that the lumber company did not substantially and unreasonably interfere with the plaintiff’s use and enjoyment of their property.

After a hearing, the local Board of Adjustment unanimously adopted an order which affirmed the decision of a zoning administrator and concluded that the plaintiffs failed to carry their burden that the lumber company violated local zoning ordinances.

The board also concluded that the plaintiffs failed to carry their burden that they suffered special damages separate and distinct from the rest of the community.

The superior court granted certiorari under G.S. § 153- 345(e2). It entered an order finding that the board erred in concluding that the plaintiffs lacked standing but in all other respects affirmed the board’s decision.

The plaintiffs appealed, and the defendants cross-appealed.


The defendants argued that the superior court erred in reversing the board on the issue of whether the plaintiffs lacked standing because the plaintiffs failed to establish that their injury could be redressed by a favorable determination from the board.

If a party does not have standing to bring a claim, a court has no subject-matter jurisdiction to hear the claim. As the party invoking jurisdiction, the plaintiffs have the burden of establishing standing.

An appraiser testified that his appraisal of the plaintiff’s property was based on the entire operation of the lumber company rather than any specific component of its business, and that the loss in the plaintiffs’ property value was attributable to noise and dust.

No witness testified that the plaintiffs’ injury was directly traceable to the structures they sought to have removed – a dust bin enclosure constructed to contain dust; an electric crane constructed to reduce dust, noise and emissions; a kiln to heat wooden pallets; a forestry office; and storage sheds.

There was no evidence presented that the removal of these structures would redress the plaintiffs’ injuries.

Viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the plaintiffs, we hold that they lack standing as there is insufficient evidence to establish that their injury could be redressed by removal of the structures.

Accordingly, this matter is dismissed.

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