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City of Ocean Springs v. Psycamore, LLC

Supreme Court of Mississippi

October 31, 2013

CITY OF OCEAN SPRINGS, Mississippi
v.
PSYCAMORE, LLC.

Page 659

Robert W. Wilkinson, Amy Lassitter St. Pe', Pascagoula, John B. Edwards, II, attorneys for appellant.

William Lee Guice, III, Maria M. Cobb, Biloxi, attorneys for appellee.

Before DICKINSON, P.J., KITCHENS and CHANDLER, JJ.

DICKINSON, Presiding Justice.

¶ 1. Psycamore, LLC, sought approval to operate a mental-health treatment facility in an area of Ocean Springs, Mississippi (" the City" ), where the zoning ordinance allowed facilities for the examination and treatment of human patients. The City of Ocean Springs denied Psycamore's application, but the circuit court reversed and the City appealed. Because we find that the City's decision was arbitrary and capricious, we affirm the circuit court's ruling.

Page 660

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶ 2. Any occupant seeking to change the use of an existing structure in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, must obtain either a certificate of occupancy or a use permit prior to commencing the new intended use.[1] City ordinances divide the city into various zoning districts, listing the permissible uses of property within the corresponding geographic areas.[2]

¶ 3. When the proposed use in the occupant's application for a certificate of occupancy conforms to one of the uses listed in the applicable district ordinance, the City must issue a certificate of occupancy.[3] But when the proposed use is not listed in the applicable zoning district ordinance, the occupant may not conduct the proposed use at the subject property without obtaining a use permit,[4] which requires public notice and a hearing before the city planning commission.[5] The planning commission must then decide whether the proposed use is " similar to or not in conflict with those uses specifically permitted." [6] If it does, the mayor and board of alderman must then approve the commission's recommendation.[7]

¶ 4. Psycamore, LLC, provides a wide range of clinical mental-health treatment. It leased an existing structure located at 1101 Iberville Drive in Ocean Springs for a proposed new treatment facility. It filed an application with the City to obtain a certificate of occupancy. The application identified " psychiatric partial hospitalization" as its intended property use. Notations on the application provided that all programs would operate Monday through Friday, with no session conducted later than eight p.m. The application further explained that patients would not stay at the facility overnight and that Psycamore was not a detox or rehabilitation facility. Finally, the application provided that Psycamore would not conduct lab work or cooking on site.

¶ 5. The city planning commission met to discuss Psycamore's application and intended use, and to determine whether it conformed to a listed use in the applicable Commercial-3 zoning ordinance. Because the applicable ordinance did not specifically list " psychiatric partial hospitalization" the commission refused Psycamore a certificate of occupancy.

¶ 6. Although Psycamore believed its proposed use— a " medical or paramedical clinic" — was indeed listed in the ordinance, it filed an application for a use permit under protest, arguing that the commission should have issued a certificate of occupancy following its first hearing and that it should not have to apply for a use permit. The City noticed a hearing on the use permit application.

¶ 7. In preparation for the hearing, the City's planning director, Eric Meyer, prepared a report analyzing the Psycamore application. Meyer concluded that Psycamore was a " medical or paramedical clinic" as defined by city ordinance, and that the commission should have issued a certificate ...


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