Board of Zoning Misinterprets Zoning Ordinance: LLDF Amends Huntsville City Zoning Lawsuit Complaint

On September 12, 2014, LLDF learned that Dalton Johnson had submitted a formal application for an abortion license to the Alabama Department of Public Health on August 29, 2014. The ADPH issued a letter to Johnson notifying him of several deficiencies in his application that needed correction before the application could be processed. One of the major deficiencies was the lack of a State issued “certificate of completion.”

In this instance, the State issues a certificate of completion based on the City issued certificate of completion. The City of Huntsville illegally issued a the certificate of completion on August 14, 2014 pending the zoning appeal filed by the plaintiffs on July 24, 2014. State and City law provides for an automatic stay of all proceedings regarding a property when an appeal has been filed with the Board of Zoning Adjustment. The City ignored state and city law and issued the certificate of ordinance pending the appeal.

In an effort to stop the State from relying on the illegally issued City certificate of completion, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint to add the City, the Inspection Department and Randy Cunningham (Director of Inspections) to the Huntsville City Zoning lawsuit and filed a request for an emergency court order to direct the City to nullify and/or revoke the illegally issued certificate of completion.

The ADPH put a hold on the issuance of the State certificate of completion for several days to see if the court would rule on Plaintiffs’ emergency request for court order before Johnson’s September 23, 2014, deadline to file the State certificate of completion. On September 22, 2014, the court set a hearing on the emergency request for court order for October 9, 2014. In the meantime, ADPH issued the State certificate of completion. Brian Hale, general counsel for ADPH, stated that he does not anticipate a final decision on Johnson’s application prior to the October 9th hearing.

If the court invalidates the City certificate of occupancy, it is unlikely that the ADPH would issue an abortion license to Mr. Johnson without city authorization to operate at his desired location of 4831 Sparkman Drive, Huntsville, AL.

The Board of Zoning Adjustment has filed a motion to dismiss the entire case based on legal technicalities and a misunderstanding of state law. A hearing is set on the motion to dismiss for October 9, 2014. Plaintiffs will vigorously fight to correct the Board of Zoning’s misinterpretation of the Huntsville Zoning Ordinance and to hold City officials accountable to following the law.