October 10, 2018
From Greenville County Letitia H. Verdin, Circuit Court
Barbara Faith Martzin, of B. Faith Martzin, PC, of
Greenville, for Appellant.
William A. Coates, of Roe Cassidy Coates & Price, PA, of
Greenville, for Respondent RMDC, Inc.
Dean Campbell, Jr. and Jeffrey D. Wile, both of Greenville,
for Respondent Greenville County Planning Commission.
Citizens for Quality Rural Living, Inc. challenges the
circuit court's order dismissing its declaratory judgment
action and its appeal from a decision of Respondent
Greenville County Planning Commission (Commission) approving
the subdivision proposal of Respondent RMDC, Inc.
(Developer). Appellant argues the circuit court erred by
concluding that Appellant had no standing to appeal the
Commission's decision or to file its declaratory judgment
action. We reverse and remand to the circuit court for a
determination on the merits of Appellant's issues.
August 2016, Developer submitted to the Commission an
application for preliminary approval of a proposal for a
subdivision to be named "Copperleaf" near Woodside
Road, South Shirley Road, and McKelvey Road in an unzoned
area of Greenville County. This submission followed three
previous unsuccessful submissions for the same
subdivision. According to the Commission, the August
2016 proposal called for a tract of 82.17 acres to be
subdivided into 95 residential lots.
Commission's August 2016 meeting, several of
Appellant's members, including those who own property and
live in the immediate vicinity of the proposed subdivision,
spoke in opposition to the proposal. They expressed concern
over traffic hazards and other environmental problems that
could result from the subdivision as well as the
incompatibility of the subdivision with the surrounding rural
community. Developer's engineer and the County's
Planning Department staff also addressed the Commission at
this meeting. By voice vote, the Commission accepted the
recommendation of the Planning Department staff to approve
Developer's proposal, and the county's Subdivision
Administrator noted this approval in a letter dated August
sought review of the Commission's decision in the circuit
court, attaching to its Notice of Appeal a complaint
entitled, "Appeal and Request for Declaratory
Relief," with exhibits. In the complaint, Appellant set
forth its grounds for appeal as well as a separate
"Request for Declaratory Relief." Developer filed a
motion to dismiss Appellant's complaint on the grounds
that Appellant had no standing to appeal the Commission's
decision and the complaint failed to state a claim on which
relief could be granted. In its supporting memorandum,
Developer asserted that Section 6-29-1150 of the South
Carolina Code (Supp. 2015) allowed only a property owner
whose land is the subject of a commission decision to appeal
conducting a motions hearing, the circuit court issued a Form
4 order stating, "Court grants [Developer's] Motion
to Dismiss due to Appellant's lack of standing in this
matter." The circuit court denied Appellant's motion
for reconsideration pursuant to Rule 59(e), SCRCP, in a Form
4 order as well, giving no reason for the denial. This appeal
Appellant have standing under section 6-29-1150 to appeal the
Commission's decision to the circuit court?
Appellant have standing under the Declaratory Judgment Act,
SC Code Ann. §§ 15-53-10 to -140 (2005), to seek
the circuit court's declaration that the Commission had
discretionary authority to reject a staff recommendation?
issue regarding statutory interpretation is a question of
law." Lightner v. Hampton Hall Club, Inc., 419
S.C. 357, 363, 798 S.E.2d 555, 558 (2017) (quoting Univ.
of S. California v. Moran, 365 S.C. 270, 274, 617 S.E.2d
135, 137 (Ct. App. 2005)). As to questions of law, this
court's standard of review is de novo. Fesmire v.
Digh, 385 S.C. 296, 302, 683 S.E.2d 803, 807 (Ct. App.
decision to grant a declaratory judgment is a matter [that]
rests in the sound discretion of the trial court and will not
be disturbed absent a clear showing of
abuse." Eargle v. Horry Cty., 344 S.C.
449, 453, 545 S.E.2d 276, 279 (2001) (quoting Garris v.
Governing Bd. of S.C. Reinsurance Facility, 319 S.C.
388, 390, 461 S.E.2d 819, 820 (1995)). "An abuse of
discretion occurs [when] the trial court is controlled by an
error of law or [when] the [c]ourt's order is based on
factual conclusions without evidentiary support."
City of Columbia v. Pic-A-Flick Video, Inc., 340
S.C. 278, 282, 531 S.E.2d 518, 521 (2000).
argues it had standing to appeal the Commission's
decision to the circuit court under section 6-29-1150(D)
because the statute's language does not limit the class
of permissible appellants to only property owners. We agree.
right of appeal does not exist in every case and can only
be claimed under some constitutional or statutory provision
conferring such right." Turner v. Joseph Walker Sch.
Dist. No. 9, 215 S.C. 472, 476, 56 S.E.2d 243, 244
(1949) (quoting Whipper v. Talbird, 32 S.C. 1, 10
S.E. 578 (1890)). "[N]o appeal is to be allowed from an
inferior or special tribunal, except in cases where it is