Georgia Court of Appeals Distinguishes Dock Permit from a Dock

On May 22, 2008, the Court of Appeals of Georgia found that a permit had been issued by the Army Corps of Engineers to allow the construction of a private dock over state-owned tidewater beds and marsh lands does not mean that any damage will occur upon the construction of that dock.  The Court upheld the dismissal of an appeal from the issuance of a dock permit because the challenger did not possess standing because the dock had not yet been built. 

Keep reading for GZB’s summary of Hitch v. Vasarhelyi, Court of Appeals of Georgia, Case No. A08A0065, decided May 22, 2008. 

William and Lucy Hitch owned property adjacent to Jane Vasarhelyi on the Skidaway River.  Vasarhelyi obtained a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to construct a deck from her property over Georgia-owned tidewater beds and marsh lands.  After losing through administrative proceedings, the Hitches sued Vasarhelyi and the State alleging that the construction of the dock would interfere with their ownership of their property because the dock would “impair and impinge upon their view of the marsh and Skidaway River.”  The Hitches also alleged that the construction by Vasarhelyi of her dock would “severely hamper” their ability to construct their own dock. 

The Hitches voluntarily dismissed Vasarhelyi, but the trial court dismissed their claims against the State for lack of standing and for being barred by sovereign immunity.  On appeal, the Court of Appeals of Georgia noted that standing in a zoning case is the same for cases involving government action that allegedly threatens property owners’ full use and enjoyment – a demonstrable substantial interest in the government decision and sustained special damages.  The Court held that the Hitches’ allegations of damages that might result from the construction dock were merely “allegations of speculative or contingent injuries” because the dock had not been built.  The Court concluded that the issuance of the permit to construct the dock “does not relieve Vasarhelyi from compliance with other laws or give her the right to infringe on the rights of other.”   

The Court upheld the dismissal because the Hitches had sustained no special damages and as such possessed no standing to challenge the issuance of the permit to build the dock.

Hitch v. Vasarhelyi, Court of Appeals of Georgia, Case No. A08A0065, decided May 22, 2008. 

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