Supreme Court Rules Company’s Mining Activities Are Protected by “Grandfather Clause”

August 30, 2012

Nashville, Tenn. – In a unanimous decision, the Tennessee Supreme Court reinstated a ruling by Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood that a New Market company’s mining activities may continue under the "grandfather clause" despite the enactment of a county zoning ordinance which purported to limit the land use to agriculture.

From the 1880s until 1967, a variety of owners intermittently conducted mining activities on a property in Jefferson County. American Limestone, which sold its interest to Ready Mix, USA, LLC during the lengthy proceedings in the trial court, had re-initiated mining operations only weeks before the county enacted a comprehensive zoning ordinance, which would have prevented use of the land for quarrying gravel or crushed stone. The county issued a stop work order once the ordinance was enacted.

Today, the Tennessee Supreme Court decided that the quarry owned by Ready Mix is protected by the “grandfather clause,” a statute that permits a business to continue if “in operation” at a time a zoning ordinance, which would otherwise prohibit the activity, takes effect. In a unanimous opinion, which included a separate concurrence by Justice William C. Koch, Jr., the Court reversed a ruling by the Court of Appeals, which had dismissed the claim on procedural grounds.

To read the Ready Mix, USA, LLC v. Jefferson County, Tennessee opinion authored by Justice Gary R. Wade visit https://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/ready_mix_opn.pdf.

To read the concurring opinion by Justice William C. Koch, Jr., visit http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/readymix_con.pdf.