Stillwater News Press

May 2, 2013

Stillwater response: Courts can’t zone property

By Chris Day
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Payne County District Court cannot zone property or substitute its judgment over a legally-made decision of the Stillwater City Council, according to a court document filed by the city of Stillwater.

Stillwater city attorneys have responded to a March 14 lawsuit filed on behalf of Stillwater businessman Robert Kerns.

The lawsuit challenges the city’s decision to not change the zoning of 31.5 acres at 799 E. Mercury Ave. The property is zoned industrial and is surrounded by property zoned for apartment complexes or duplexes. Park 7 Group of Westin, Conn., wants to build a 275-unit, three-story apartment complex on the site, but the city refused to rezone the property in February following complaints from Lakeview Ridge subdivision homeowners.

The city of Stillwater’s responses filed by City Attorney John Dorman claims:

• the Kerns lawsuit asks the court to change the property’s zoning to allow construction of the apartment complex, and states the district court doesn’t have the authority to zone property.

• a property owner is not entitled to a zoning classification. Their only expectation is reasonable use for property.

• the City Council’s decision was based on protection of public health, safety, morals and general welfare. They were not arbitrary or unreasonable. It also was “debated” in a public meeting.

• the district court can’t substitute its judgment for the City Council’s decision.

• a property owner doesn’t have an unqualified right to use property as he pleases and is subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by Stillwater.

• a property owner can’t use property in a manner inconsistent with the rights of others to use and enjoy their property.

The response asks the court to rule in favor of the city and order Kerns to pay the city’s costs and expenses associated with the lawsuit.