W.R. MERIWETHER, FACTORS AND DRAYAGE, LLC, and Gregory P. Thompson
PIKE ROAD VOLUNTEER FIRE PROTECTION AUTHORITY, a corporation, et al.
from Montgomery Circuit Court (CV-18-901961)
limited liability company, W.R. Meriwether, Factors and
Drayage, LLC ("Meriwether"), and Gregory P.
Thompson appeal from adverse judgments entered by the
Montgomery Circuit Court in Meriwether and Thompson's
action against the Pike Road Volunteer Fire Protection
Authority, a corporation ("the Fire Authority"),
and other defendants. We reverse the trial court's
judgments and remand the cause for further proceedings.
and Thompson each own parcels of real property that adjoin a
10-acre piece of property owned by the Fire Authority. All
three parcels are located in the Town of Pike Road
("Pike Road"). Pursuant to a Pike Road zoning
ordinance, the parcels are located in an area zoned for
"low density, single-family residential
development." Materials submitted to the trial court
indicate that the Fire Authority plans to build a fire
station on its 10-acre parcel.
and Thompson sued the Fire Authority and Pike Road, along
with the members of the Fire Authority's board of
directors, the Pike Road Planning Commission, the chairman of
the Planning Commission, and the Pike Road planning director.
In their complaint, Meriwether and Thompson sought a judgment
declaring that the Fire Authority is subject to the
referenced zoning ordinance and that constructing a fire
station on its property would be a violation of that
Road, the Pike Road planning director, the Pike Road Planning
Commission, and the chairman of the planning commission
answered Meriwether and Thompson's complaint and,
thereafter, filed a motion for a judgment on the pleadings.
The other defendants filed a motion to dismiss the action.
Each of the defendants argued, among other things, that the
Fire Authority is exempt from the Pike Road zoning ordinance.
The trial court
agreed and granted both motions, entering separate judgments
dismissing the action. This appeal followed.
2007, this Court stated:
"It was once `well settled that city zoning ordinances
[did] not apply to the operation of a governmental function
by a governing body, as opposed to a proprietary
function.' Lane v. Zoning Bd. of Talladega, 669
So.2d 958, 959 (Ala. Civ. App. 1995).... See City of
Birmingham v. Scogin, 269 Ala. 679, 690, 115 So.2d 505,
514 (1959) (`The Alabama cases have long held that zoning
does not apply to the operation of a governmental function by
a municipality.'); Lauderdale County Bd. of Educ. v.
Alexander, 269 Ala. 79, 86, 110 So.2d 911, 918 (1959)
(`If a city engaged in a governmental function is not subject
to its own zoning regulations, certainly a county engaged in
a governmental function is not subject to a city's zoning
regulations.'); Water Works Bd. of Birmingham v.
Stephens, 262 Ala. 203, 78 So.2d 267 (1955); Alabama
Alcoholic Beverage Control Bd. v. City of Birmingham,
253 Ala. 402, 44 So.2d 593 (1950)."
City of Selma v. Dallas Cty., 964 So.2d 12, 16 (Ala.
2007) (emphasis omitted). According to the Court in City of
Selma, the exemption from zoning regulation for the operation
of a governmental function by a governing body remains
intact: "[N]either the judiciary nor the legislature has
heretofore manifested an intent to abrogate the immunity from
zoning ordinances that has long been afforded to political
subdivisions in the operation of their governmental
functions." 964 So.2d at 19 (emphasis omitted). The
question in the present case is whether the Fire Authority
qualifies as a "governing body" or a
"political subdivision" that, if engaged in
governmental functions, is exempt from zoning ordinances.
City of Selma, 964 So.2d at 16, 19. We apply a de
novo standard of review to that question of law. See
Alabama Republican Party v. McGinley, 893 So.2d 337, 342
(Ala. 2004) (de novo standard applies where there are no
factual disputes and the issue to be resolved is one of
to the parties, the Fire Authority was duly created pursuant
to § 11-88-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975, which allows for
the creation of public corporations, known as
"authorities," to provide water, sewer, or
fire-protection services. The materials submitted to the
trial court indicate that, with the approval of the
Montgomery County Commission, the Fire Authority was formed
in 1992 by three resident owners of property located in a
then unincorporated area in Montgomery
County. See § 11-88-3, Ala. Code 1975 (allowing resident
property owners desiring to create an authority under Title
4, Chapter 88, to apply to "the governing body of that
county in which the area or areas to be served ...