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Municipal – Zoning – Storage Building Permit – Commercial Use Finding – Standard of Review

Municipal – Zoning – Storage Building Permit – Commercial Use Finding – Standard of Review

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Thompson v. Town of White Lake (Lawyers Weekly No. 011-076-17, 15 pp.) (Lucy Inman, J.) Appealed from Bladen County Superior Court (James Gregory Bell, J.) N.C. App.

Holding: The respondent-town’s zoning inspector gave three reasons for the town’s intended revocation of petitioner’s permit to build a storage building on her property, but the town’s board of adjustment rejected two of the reasons (failure to develop in accordance with approved plans and improper location of the building) as not being supported by the evidence, and the town has admitted on appeal that the third reason – that the building was a commercial structure – is not supported by the evidence. In the interest of judicial economy, we conclude remand is unnecessary, and we reverse the board’s stop work order and notice of intent to revoke the permit.

We reverse both the board’s decision and the superior court’s decision upholding it.

The superior court should have applied whole-record review to the board’s findings and inferences and de novo review to the board’s conclusions of law and interpretation of the town’s zoning ordinance. Instead, the superior court applied a de novo standard to all issues in dispute. In finding that petitioner’s building was constructed inconsistently with the permit, the superior court contradicted the board’s finding that such allegation was erroneous and impermissibly substituted an alternative basis to affirm the revocation.

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