CHARLES THOMAS BOSTICK AND LARRY S. POE APPELLANTS
DESOTO COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI, BY AND THROUGH ITS BOARD OF SUPERVISORS APPELLEE
OF JUDGMENT: 08/17/2015
COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. MITCHELL M. LUNDY JR. TRIAL JUDGE
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS: WILLIAM P. MYERS.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: ROBERT E. QUIMBY.
Tom Bostick and Larry Poe own houses in a residential
subdivision in DeSoto County. Bostick and Poe began offering
their houses for short-term rent to transient guests on
HomeAway.com and other websites. DeSoto County contends that
such rentals are not a permitted use under applicable DeSoto
County Zoning Regulations, which permit, as relevant in this
case, "single family dwellings." The DeSoto County
Chancery Court agreed and permanently enjoined Bostick and
Poe from offering their houses as "vacation
rentals" to short-term, transient renters. On appeal,
Bostick and Poe argue that the chancery court misinterpreted
the applicable regulations. However, we agree with the
chancery court that such rentals are not a permitted use.
Therefore, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Bostick owns a house in Blue Lake Springs, a residential
subdivision in Lake Cormorant, an unincorporated community in
DeSoto County. Bostick once lived in the house, but he now
resides near Auburn, Alabama. After he moved, Bostick began
offering the house for rent on HomeAway.com, with a two-night
minimum stay. Bostick's online listing touts the
house's proximity to Graceland, Beale Street, Tunica, and
the University of Mississippi. Online reviews for the house
indicate that he has rented it for, among other purposes,
family gatherings, vacations, "guys" and
"girls" weekends, a "bachelorette gathering,
" and as a place for out-of-state wedding guests to
Poe owns three houses in Blue Lake Springs. He has offered
the houses for short-term rent on Craigslist, HomeAway.com,
and other websites. Neighbors have complained about raucous
parties, loud music, and out-of-state vehicles coming and
going at the houses.
In December 2014, the County filed an application in the
DeSoto County Chancery Court for a temporary restraining
order, preliminary injunction, and permanent injunction to
"halt the short-term rental" of Bostick's
home. The County alleged that the property was
"not [being] used as any person's residence but
[was] rather being continually rented on a 2 to 3 night
basis." The County further alleged that such use of the
property violated the applicable county zoning regulations
for property zoned "A-R Overlay." The County filed
a similar application to enjoin Poe from renting his houses
on a short-term basis.
On January 30, 2015, a hearing was held in the Bostick case.
Following the hearing, the chancery court entered an order
preliminarily enjoining Bostick from renting the house
"to transient guests for compensation." Bostick and
Poe are represented by the same counsel, and the court
subsequently entered an agreed order consolidating the
Bostick and Poe cases.
The consolidated cases proceeded to a final hearing on June
4, 2015. Benny Hopkins, the director of planning for DeSoto
County, and Jeremy Sartain, a longtime resident of Blue Lake
Springs, testified in the County's case-in-chief. Shelley
Johnston, a certified planner and planning consultant,
testified for Bostick and Poe.
Sartain testified that neighbors were concerned about parties
at the subject properties with "loud music" and
numerous vehicles with out-of-state license plates. He
testified that during a recent weekend, "15 to 20
motorcycles [were] parked in the driveway" of one of the
houses and "loud music" was playing. "All
weekend, " "all you heard was the motorcycles
rip[-]roaring through the neighborhood." The motorcycles
all had out-of-state tags, and no one knew why they were
there. Sartain and others were afraid to allow their children
to ride bikes or play outside. Another weekend, Poe rented a
house to University of Memphis students for a party. Poe told
Sartain that he knew that the students had a
"stripper" at the party-or, if not a stripper,
"a female [who] was not dressed appropriately."
The chancery court subsequently ruled "that a permanent
injunction [was] justified, " finding as follows:
Single family dwellings permitted in the AR zone are
dwellings designed or used as a residence, and they do not
include a room in a hotel which is open to transient guests.
It is not the intention of the DeSoto County Zoning
Regulations to allow so-called vacation rentals in a
the court "permanently enjoined" Bostick and Poe
"from renting their homes as so-called vacation
rentals." Bostick and Poe filed a timely motion for a
new trial, which was denied, and a timely notice of appeal.
On appeal, they argue that the DeSoto County Zoning
Regulations do not prohibit the rental of a "single
family dwelling" to "transient guests" on a
"The findings of a chancellor will not be disturbed on
review unless the chancellor was manifestly wrong, clearly
erroneous, or applied the wrong legal standard. . . .
However, for questions of law, the standard of review is de
novo." McNeil v. Hester, 753 So.2d 1057, 1063
(¶21) (Miss. 2000). There are no significant or material
facts in dispute in this case. Rather, the appeal turns on
the proper interpretation of applicable zoning regulations,
an issue of law. Therefore, we review the chancery
court's decision de novo.
"Zoning ordinances should be given a fair and reasonable
construction, in the light of their terminology, the objects
sought to be obtained, the natural import of the words used
in common and accepted usage, the setting in which they are
employed, and the general structure of the zoning ordinance
as a whole." City of Gulfport v. Daniels, 231
Miss. 599, 604-05, 97 So.2d 218, 220 (1957). "The
cardinal rule in construction of zoning ordinances is to give
effect to the intent of the lawmaking body."
Columbus & Greenville Ry. Co. v. Scales, 578
So.2d 275, 279 (Miss. 1991). "[The Supreme] Court has
held that, 'in construing a zoning ordinance, unless
manifestly unreasonable, great weight should be given to the
construction placed upon the words by the local
authorities.'" Hall v. City of Ridgeland,
37 So.3d 25, 40 (¶50) (Miss. 2010) (quoting
Scales, 578 So.2d at 279).
Under the DeSoto County Zoning Regulations, the houses at
issue in this appeal are in a "Residential Overlay
District" referred to as "A-R Overlay." As
relevant in this case, permitted uses in the A-R Overlay
District are the same "[u]ses permitted in the
underlying base zone district, " which is
District." "Permitted Uses" in the A-R
District include, as relevant in this appeal, "[s]ingle
family dwellings."The issue in this appeal is essentially
whether a "single family dwelling" may be
continually rented to a succession of transient ...