Court Judge Lawsuit

Back in September, the Spring Hill Planning Commission shot down a request from the Arkansas-based company GWE Holdings LLC to construct a new car wash on Belshire Village Drive, voting 0-7 on the applicant's request for site plan approval.

On Nov. 13, the owners of GWE Holdings — Debbi and James Whitlock — filed a lawsuit against the city for its failure to approve that site plan.

Great White Express Car Wash

Design documents for the proposed Great White Express Car Wash.

Sequence of events

The proposed site for the project is zoned for general commercial, which under the city's Unified Development Code would require special use approval from the city to construct a car wash.

On June 16, the Spring Hill Board of Zoning Appeals approved the applicant's special use request for the Great White Express Car Wash to be constructed on Belshire Village Drive, in between the KFC and the Lowe's near Main Street.

Upon being brought before the Spring Hill Planning Commission in September, however, the project's site plan was unanimously denied, with Commissioner Matt Fitterer expressing concerns of the project's affect on the area's sewer capacity.

Fitterer stated during the September meeting that the area's existing sewer capacity was around 77 percent, and asked City Engineer Tom Wolf whether calculations for the car wash's added sewer usage included those of the elementary school proposed to be constructed nearby on Wilkes Lane.

"Specifically, I can't answer that question correctly, I don't want to guess," Wolf answered.

Fitterer went on to say that if the newly proposed school's sewer usage had not been included into calculations for the Great White Express Car Wash — something Fitterer had to assume given Wolf's uncertainty — then the car wash would then bring the area's sewer capacity in excess of 90 percent.

Fitterer PC

Alderman Matt Fitterer (lower right) discusses the proposed car wash during the September 14 Planning Commission meeting.

Given the project's potential effect on the area's sewer capacity, along with some traffic concerns, Fitterer and his fellow commissioners denied the project's site plan.

On Nov. 12, the city received a letter from the applicant's attorneys, Kelli Haas and Doug Sloan. In the letter, Haas and Sloan collectively request that the city grant the project a reconsideration, arguing that "all necessary infrastructure exists to support the intended use" of the project's site.

To support this claim, the letter contains this excerpt, one that Fitterer would later challenge the accuracy of:

"Replying to questions raised by Alderman Fetterer (the letter incorrectly spells Fitterer's name) regarding the sufficiency of the sewer system, Tom Wolf, the City Engineer and representative for the Spring Hill Wastewater Department, stated that sufficient capacity exists in the system."

"When pressed further by Alderman [Fitterer] about how the capacity was calculated, Mr. Wolf stated that the department's calculations for sewer capacity include both existing developments and previously approved developments."

A day later on Nov. 13, GWE filed a lawsuit against the city in the Maury County Chancery Court.

The lawsuit

The lawsuit alleges that the Planning Commission "acted illegally, arbitrarily, and capriciously in its failure to approve petitioners' site plan application for their car wash," and that the city "violated the petitioners' equal protection and /or due process rights."

The lawsuit goes on to request that the court see to it that the city pay the petitioners' attorney fees, that the actions of the city "be declared illegal, arbitrary [and] capricious," and that the applicant's site plan be "deemed approved and that all necessary and appropriate permits and license be issued immediately."

The lawsuit also requests of the court that GWE Holdings LLC "be awarded its legal fees and other expenses."

Fitterer's response

During the Nov. 23 non-voting meeting of the Planning Commission, Fitterer challenged the basis for both the applicant's request for reconsideration and the lawsuit.

"This Nov. 12 letter around a reconsideration all seems to center around the idea that the Engineering Department definitively said there was sewer collection capacity - that's just not true," Fitterer said.

Fitterer PC Nov 23

Alderman Matt Fitterer (right) challenges the basis for the lawsuit during the November 23 Spring Hill Planning Commission meeting.

"If anybody goes back and watches the recording, the Engineering Department stated that 'additional conversations were needed to ensure what existing and future flows were included in calculations or not.' I then specifically asked if entitled but unbuilt projects were included or not, and at 53 minutes into the meeting, quote, 'specifically, I can't answer that question correctly, I don't want to guess.'"

"So how you interpret that as 'Mr. Wolf stated that the department's calculations for sewer capacity include both existing developments and previously approved developments,' I don't know. What was stated is not what's being represented as the basis of this lawsuit."