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Philbin v. City of Cleveland, Ohio

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

January 11, 2018


         Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CV-17-876683

          FOR APPELLANTS Andrew P. Philbin, pro se Luis S. Sandoval, pro se

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES Barbara A. Langhenry City of Cleveland Director of Law By: Carolyn M. Downey Assistant Director of Law

          For Vine Court Townhomes, L.L.C. Jordan Berns Berns, Ockner & Greenberger, L.L.C.

          BEFORE: Celebrezze, J., Keough, P.J., and Blackmon, J.



         {¶1} Appellants, Andrew Philbin and Luis Sandoval, take issue with the dismissal of their appeal of a decision of the city of Cleveland Board of Zoning Appeals ("BZA"), affirming a decision of the city of Cleveland Landmarks Commission (the "Landmarks Commission"). The common pleas court dismissed the appeal for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. After a thorough review of the record and law, this court reverses and remands.

         I. Factual and Procedural History

         {¶2} The Landmarks Commission reviewed plans for the construction of a nine-unit building in a historic district within the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland submitted by Vine Court Townhomes, L.L.C. ("Vine Court"). Vine Court sought a certificate of appropriateness from the Landmarks Commission. The commission imposed several requirements, but issued a certificate of appropriateness on November 7, 2016.

         {¶3} An adjoining neighbor to the project, Carol Vang, filed an appeal to the BZA. She was the only party to file a notice of appeal, and the notice listed her as the only appellant. However, appellants participated in the hearing and offered testimony. The BZA upheld the issuance of the certificate on January 30, 2017.

         {¶4} Following this determination, appellants filed a notice of appeal from that decision with the common pleas court on March 1, 2017. Appellees, Vine Court and the city of Cleveland (the "city"), responded by filing motions to dismiss.

         {¶5} On April 12, 2017, the trial court granted the motions to dismiss, finding that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the appeal because the BZA lacked jurisdiction to hear an appeal from a decision of the Landmarks Commission that did not include a request for a zoning variance.

         {¶6} Following the dismissal of the appeal, appellants appealed to this court, assigning one error for review:

The trial court erred in dismissing the administrative appeal of appellants * * * as the [BZA] has subject matter jurisdiction to hear appeals from decisions regarding Certificates of Appropriateness granted or denied by the City of Cleveland, Ohio Landmarks Commission.

         II. Law and Analysis

         {¶7} This appeal concerns the appropriate reviewing body for decisions of the Landmarks Commission. Appellants assert that the appropriate body is the BZA, while the city and Vine Court maintain that it is the Board of Building Standards and Building Appeals ("BSBA") where the case does not involve a variance from applicable zoning regulations.

         A. Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

         {¶8} "Subject-matter jurisdiction is the power of a court to entertain and adjudicate a particular class of cases." Bank of Am., N.A. v. Kuchta, 141 Ohio St.3d 75, 2014-Ohio-4275, 21 N.E.3d 1040, ¶ 19, citing Morrison v. Steiner, 32 Ohio St.2d 86, 87, 290 N.E.2d 841 (1972). The Kuchta court went on to distinguish subject-matter jurisdiction from the jurisdiction of a court to preside over a particular matter:

A court's subject-matter jurisdiction is determined without regard to the rights of the individual parties involved in a particular case. State ex rel Tubbs Jones v. Suster, 84 Ohio St.3d 70, 75, 701 N.E.2d 1002 (1998); Handy v. Ins. Co., 37 Ohio St. 366, 370 (1881). A court's jurisdiction over a particular case refers to the court's authority to proceed or rule on a case that is within the court's subject-matter jurisdiction. Pratts [v. Hurley, 102 Ohio St.3d 81, 2004-Ohio-1980, 806 N.E.2d 992');">806 N.E.2d 992, ] ¶ 12. This latter jurisdictional category involves consideration of the rights of the parties. If a court possesses subject-matter jurisdiction, any error in the invocation or exercise of jurisdiction over a particular case causes a judgment to be voidable rather than void. Id. . at ¶ 12.

         "The question of subject-matter jurisdiction is a question of law, subject to a de novo review on appeal." Cuyahoga Cty. Bd. of Cty. Commrs. v. Daroczy, 178 Ohio App.3d 625, 2008-Ohio-5491, 899 N.E.2d 1017, ¶ 4 (8th Dist).

         {¶9} Here, the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court has subject-matter jurisdiction over administrative appeals from the BZA. R.C. 2506.01; see also Kurtock v. Cleveland Bd. of Zoning Appeals, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 100266, 2014-Ohio-1836. The BZA heard Vang's appeal, finding that it had jurisdiction to hear an appeal from the Landmarks Commission. Pursuant to R.C. 2506.01, the common pleas court had subject-matter jurisdiction over an appeal from the BZA. Therefore, the court erred in holding that it did not. But that does not answer the question of whether the trial court erred in dismissing the appeal for lack of jurisdiction over the particular case.

         B. Jurisdiction Over the Matter

         {¶10} The Cleveland Charter, Section 76-6(d) outlines the ...

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