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Exemption from Zoning - Governmental Entity

Meriwether, Factors and Drayage v. Pike Road Volunteer Fire Protection Authority, [Ms. 1180330, June 14, 2019] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2019). The Court (Sellers, J.; Parker, C.J., and Bolin, Wise, and Stewart, JJ., concur) reverses a judgment of the Montgomery Circuit Court which had held that the Pike Road Volunteer Fire Protection Authority was a governmental entity exempt from zoning regulations. The Court acknowledged that immunity from zoning regulations has long been afforded to “‘political subdivisions’ in the operation of their governmental functions.” Ms. *4, quoting City of Selma v. Dallas Cty., 964 So. 2d 12, 19 (Ala. 2007).

In reversing, the Court concluded that the fire protection authority was an independent organization that did not qualify for exemption from zoning regulations as a political subdivision. Ms. *15. The Court explained that exemption from zoning regulations should not be lightly awarded “[b]ecause of the importance of protecting property rights, restricting the use of property or exempting property from existing zoning restrictions requires a process that will preserve a property owner’s right to the peaceful enjoyment of his or her property and simultaneously allow property owners the confidence and assurance that neighbors will not develop their property for an inconsistent and nonconforming use that could diminish the value or use of other property.” Ms. *14.

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