THE STATE OF
Eagle Container Co., LLC and Jeffrey D. Spotts, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Alfred D. Spotts, Respondents,
Newberry, a political subdivision, and Susie Berry, in her capacity as Zoning Administrator ofAppellants. Newberry County,
Opinion No. 4037
Heard October 12, 2005 – Filed October 31, 2005
Hardwick Stuart, Jr., of
Columbia, for Appellants.
Thomas H. Pope, III, of Newberry, for Respondents.
B. Michael Brackett, of
Columbia, for Amicus Curiae Citizens for Responsive Government, Inc.
On December 5, 2001, the
Article 3 of the Zoning Ordinance establishes zoning districts and lists the general purposes for each zoning district. Section 301 provides R-2 Rural Districts “require large parcels for uses, allow rural and residential uses, including manufactured homes on individual lots, agricultural and related uses, ranching, recreation and hunting, a variety of governmental service uses, and limited business uses.”
Article 5 sets forth the zoning district regulations. Section 500 classifies three types of uses for the zoning districts as follows:
|1.||Permitted Uses: Permitted uses listed in the District Use Tables in this division are permitted outright.
|2.||Conditional Uses: Conditional uses in the District Use Tables are permitted by the Zoning Administrator without further review upon compliance with the conditions specified in the tables.
|3.||Special Exceptions: Special exceptions are permitted after review and approval by the Board of Zoning Appeals upon compliance with the general conditions in the regulations . . . .
Prior to December 11, 2002, the Zoning Ordinance listed construction and demolition landfills (“C&D landfills”) under “special exception” uses in R-2 Rural Districts. Pursuant to section 501, a C&D landfill would be permitted as a “special exception” in R-2 Rural Districts:
[P]rovided the Board of Zoning Appeals determines:
(1) Approvals shall be conditioned on the applicant receiving all state and federal approvals;
(2) All uses are a minimum of 1,000 feet from adjoining property lines;
(3) The use would not constitute a safety hazard or traffic hazard;
(4) The use is not detrimental to adjacent land uses in the vicinity.
On November 6, 2002, the first reading of Ordinance No. 12-49-02 (“amending ordinance”) occurred. The minutes of Newberry County Council for November 6, 2002, provide:
Mr. Waldrop asked Ms. Bridges to explain [Ordinance No. 12-49-02].
Susan Bridges, Planning/Zoning Director, stated that on page 31 of the Zoning Ordinance, which is the list of Special Exception Uses in R-2, you will see landfill is listed as a permitted use under the Special Exceptions; however, when you look in Article 3, 301, you will see it is not listed there at all under the R-2 Rural Districts. This has been a source of confusion for some applicants who were interested in finding out what was permitted in R-2 and where in particular landfills were permitted. We thought it might need to be added as a clarification only. It is not adding to the use to the district; the district already has that use as a Special Exception.
On November 20, 2002, the second reading of the amending ordinance occurred. The Council minutes provide then-acting Zoning Director, Susan Bridges, was asked to “tell Council in layman’s language exactly what doing [sic] [with the amending ordinance].” The Council minutes read:
Susan Bridges, Planning/Zoning Director, pointed out Article 3, Section 301, District Purpose. There is a list of designing districts all established by the Ordinance and after them is basically a statement of purpose and a list of some of the major uses that are permitted in each of those districts. The R-2 Rural District actually does allow landfills. If you will look in the list of permitted uses in R-2 Rural District, it is listed as a special exception use that requires Board of Zoning Appeals hearing. The approval for landfills shall be conditioned on the applicant receiving all state and federal approvals, all uses are a minimum of 1,000 feet from adjoining property lines, the use would not constitute a safety hazard or traffic hazard, and the use is not detrimental to adjacent land uses in the vicinity. The Board of Zoning Appeals would have to hold a public hearing and find for all four of those factors before they could grant permission for a permit to be issued to an applicant.
On December 11, 2002, the Council adopted Ordinance No. 12-49-02 which provides:
WHEREAS, Ordinance No. 12-24-01 permits various uses in R-2 Rural Districts; and
WHEREAS, landfills should be allowed in the R-2 Rural District.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED AS FOLLOWS:
Article 3, Section 301 is amended to add text “landfill” to the uses permitted in R-2 Rural District. The text is added to the Newberry County Zoning Ordinance . . . .”
On June 2, 2003, Eagle Container Co., LLC applied for a permit from the County of Newberry to build a C&D landfill on property in an R-2 Rural District of Newberry County. Susan Berry, then-acting Newberry County Zoning Administrator, initially approved Eagle Container’s application. On June 4, 2003,
Eagle Container commenced a declaratory judgment action on June 17, 2003, seeking an order rescinding the revocation of their landfill permit and reinstating their permit as originally approved. Additionally, Eagle Container petitioned for a writ of mandamus to compel issuance of a permit for the subject site. Eagle Container and
STANDARD OF REVIEW
When reviewing the grant of a summary judgment motion, the appellate court applies the same standard which governs the trial court under Rule 56 (c) SCRCP: summary judgment is proper when there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Pittman v. Grand Strand Entm’t, Inc., 363 S.C. 531, 611 S.E.2d 922 (2005); B&B Liquors, Inc. v. O’Neil, 361 S.C. 267, 603 S.E.2d 629 (Ct. App. 2004). In determining whether any triable issue of fact exists, the evidence and all inferences which can reasonably be drawn therefrom must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.
Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Rule 56(c), SCRCP; Helms Realty, Inc. v. Gibson-Wall Co., 363 S.C. 334, 611 S.E.2d 485 (2005); BPS, Inc. v. Worthy, 362 S.C. 319, 608 S.E.2d 155 (Ct. App. 2005). On appeal from an order granting summary judgment, the appellate court will review all ambiguities, conclusions, and inferences arising in and from the evidence in a light most favorable to the non-moving party below. Willis v. Wu, 362 S.C. 146, 607 S.E.2d 63 (2004); see also Schmidt v. Courtney, 357 S.C. 310, 592 S.E.2d 326 (Ct. App. 2003) (stating that all ambiguities, conclusions, and inferences arising from the evidence must be construed most strongly against the moving party).
Summary judgment is not appropriate where further inquiry into the facts of the case is desirable to clarify the application of the law. Gadson v. Hembree, 364 S.C. 316, 613 S.E.2d 533 (2005); Montgomery v. CSX Transp., Inc., 362 S.C. 529, 608 S.E.2d 440 (Ct. App. 2004). Even when there is no dispute as to evidentiary facts, but only as to the conclusions or inferences to be drawn from them, summary judgment should be denied. Nelson v.
The purpose of summary judgment is to expedite disposition of cases which do not require the services of a fact finder. Dawkins v. Fields, 354 S.C. 58, 580 S.E.2d 433 (Ct. App. 2004); Rumpf v.
I. Interpretation of Legislative Intent
A. Plain Meaning Rule
“The cardinal rule of statutory construction is to ascertain and effectuate the intent of the Legislature.” Garvin v. State, 365 S.C. 16, 21, 615 S.E.2d 451, 453 (2005); Georgia-Carolina Bail Bonds, Inc. v. County of Aiken, 354 S.C. 18, 22, 579 S.E.2d 334, 336 (Ct. App. 2003); Knotts v. S.C. Dept of Natural Resources, 348 S.C. 1, 10, 558 S.E.2d 511, 516 (2002). “The primary purpose in construing a statute is to ascertain legislative intent.” Gordon v. Phillips Utils., Inc., 362 S.C. 403, 406, 608 S.E.2d 425, 427 (2005).
“‘What a legislature says in the text of a statute is considered the best evidence of the legislative intent or will.’” Knotts, 348 S.C. at 10, 558 S.E.2d at 516 (quoting Norman J. Singer, Sutherland Statutory Construction, §46.03 at 94 (5th Ed. 1992)); Bayle v. South Carolina Dep’t of Transp., 344 S.C. 115, 122, 542 S.E.2d 736, 740 (Ct. App. 2001). “The legislature’s intent should be ascertained primarily from the plain language of the statute.” State v. Landis, 362 S.C. 97, 102, 606 S.E.2d 503, 505 (Ct. App. 2004); State v. Morgan, 352 S.C. 359, 366, 574 S.E.2d 203, 206 (Ct. App. 2002); Stephen v. Avins Constr. Co., 324 S.C. 334, 338, 478 S.E.2d 74, 76 (Ct. App. 1996).
“The first question of statutory interpretation is whether the statute’s meaning is clear on its face.” Wade v. Berkeley County, 348 S.C. 224, 229, 559 S.E.2d 586, 588 (2002) (citing Kennedy v. South Carolina Ret. Sys., 345 S.C. 339, 549 S.E.2d 243 (2001)). “Where the statute’s language is plain and unambiguous, and conveys a clear and definite meaning, the rules of statutory interpretation are not needed and the Court has no right to impose another meaning.” Vaughn v. Bernhardt, 345 S.C. 196, 198, 547 S.E.2d 869, 870 (2001) (citing Hodges v. Rainey, 341 S.C. 79, 533 S.E.2d 578 (2000)). “[T]he words of the statute must be given their plain and ordinary meaning without resorting to subtle or forced construction to limit or expand the statute’s operation.” Municipal Ass’n of South Carolina v. AT&T Communications of S. States, Inc., 361 S.C. 576, 580, 606 S.E.2d 468, 470 (2004) (citing
We find the “plain meaning” rule is applicable in the instant action and we do not need to resort to the rules of statutory construction because the language of the amending ordinance demonstrates the Council intended to make landfills a permitted use in R-2 Rural Districts. The amending ordinance states that “landfills should be allowed in the R-2 Rural District” and the Zoning Ordinance should be “amended to add text ‘landfill’ to the uses permitted in R-2 Rural District.” (emphasis added). The Council’s use of the term “permitted” is significant. Section 201 (86) of the Zoning Ordinance defines the term “permitted use” as “a use permitted outright by district regulations.” In contrast, “special exception” uses require approval by the Zoning Board of Appeals. The terms “permitted use” and “special exception” are mutually exclusive. This Court must assume Council understood the distinction between “permitted” uses and “special exception” uses. “There is a presumption that the legislature has knowledge of previous legislation . . . when later statutes are enacted concerning related subjects.” State v. McKnight, 352 S.C. 635, 648, 576 S.E.2d 168, 174 (2003) (citing State v. Corey D., 339 S.C. 107, 529 S.E.2d 20 (2000); Berkebile v. Outen, 311 S.C. 50, 426 S.E.2d 760 (1993)). Because the amending ordinance clearly and unambiguously states “landfill” is to be added to the uses “permitted” in an R-2 Rural District, we must interpret the amending ordinance’s plain language as changing landfill to a “permitted use.” Therefore, we find the trial court did not err in granting Eagle Container’s summary judgment motion pursuant to the “plain meaning” rule.
B. Considering the Statute as a Whole
Newberry County argues the court must interpret the amending ordinance as leaving landfills as “special exception” uses in consideration of the general purpose of the Zoning Ordinance, the inclusion of landfills as “special exceptions” in section 501, and the requirement in section 400 that the most restrictive interpretation of the ordinance will apply when ordinances appear to be at variance. We disagree.
“All rules of statutory construction are subservient to the one that legislative intent must prevail if it can be reasonably discovered in the language used, and that language must be construed in the light of the intended purpose of the statute.” McClanahan v. Richland County Council, 350 S.C. 433, 438, 567 S.E.2d 240, 242 (2002); Ray Bell Constr. Co. v. Sch. Dist. of Greenville County, 331 S.C. 19, 26, 501 S.E.2d 725, 729 (1998); State v. Morgan, 352 S.C. 359, 366, 574 S.E.2d 203, 206 (Ct. App. 2002); State v. Hudson, 336 S.C. 237, 246, 519 S.E.2d 577, 581 (Ct. App. 1999). “In ascertaining the intent of the legislature, a court should not focus on any single section or provision but should consider the language of the statute as a whole.” Mid-State Auto Auction v. Altman, 324 S.C. 65, 69, 476 S.E.2d 690, 692 (1996). “In construing a statute, the court looks to the language as a whole in light of its manifest purpose.” Jones v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 364 S.C. 222, 231, 612 S.E.2d 719, 724 (Ct. App. 2005). “A statute as a whole must receive a practical, reasonable, and fair interpretation consonant with the purpose, design, and policy of the lawmakers.” Browning v. Hartvigsen, 307 S.C. 122, 125, 414 S.E.2d 115, 117 (1992). “The real purpose and intent of the lawmakers will prevail over the literal import of the words.”
1. General Purpose of Zoning Ordinance
“The purposes of the zoning ordinance are to implement the land use element of the comprehensive plan set forth in S.C. Code § 6-29-710.” Section 6-29-710 of the South Carolina Code (2004) provides in part: “Zoning ordinances must be for the general purposes of guiding development in accordance with existing and future needs and promoting public health, safety, morals, convenience, order, appearance, prosperity, and general welfare.”
However, “[i]t is not the prerogative of the courts to pass upon the wisdom of County Council’s decision.” Bear Enters. v.
In the present case, this Court must give effect to the Council’s intent unless we find the Council’s action was arbitrary and capricious. The Council is in a better position to make zoning decisions to “promote public health” and “protect general welfare.” Here,
2. Consideration of Section 501 and Section 400
The court must interpret the amending ordinance in light of other relevant sections contained in the Zoning Ordinance. “Statutes must be read as a whole and sections which are part of the same general statutory scheme must be construed together and given effect, if it can be done by any reasonable construction.”
In the instant case, section 501 lists “landfills” as a “special exception” use. However, the amending ordinance directly contradicts section 501’s classification of landfills thereby repealing the classification and obviating the need to consider the existence of the “special use” requirements. Because the amending ordinance repeals section 501’s designation of landfills, section 501’s does not need to be considered.
Similarly, the amending ordinance’s direct repeal of section 501 renders section 400 obsolete. Section 400 provides that when requirements in the Zoning Ordinance are at variance with the requirements of any other ordinance “the most restrictive, or that imposing the higher standards shall govern.” Here, the applicable restriction of section 501 is repealed by the amending ordinance leaving only one statute (section 301 as amended) to consider.
The trial court did not fail to consider either section 501 or section 400 when interpreting the amending ordinance.
C. Interpret Amending Ordinance as Clarifying
Newberry County argues that the amending ordinance can and should be interpreted as merely clarifying the Zoning Ordinance to clearly indicate landfills are allowed in R-2 Rural Districts. We disagree.
“A subsequent statutory amendment may be interpreted as clarifying original legislative intent.” Stuckey v. State Budget and Control Board, 339 S.C. 397, 401, 529 S.E.2d 706, 708 (citing Cotty v. Yartzeff, 309 S.C. 259, 422 S.E.2d 100 (1992)). However, “[i]t will be presumed that the Legislature in adopting an amendment to a statute intended to make some change in the existing law.”
We find the amending ordinance cannot be read as merely clarifying the Zoning Ordinance. In Stuckey, the legislature’s subsequent adoption of a specific time period was interpreted by the court as “evidence of legislative intent that ‘directly’ be given a time-related meaning.” 339 S.C. at 401, 529 S.E.2d at 708. In Stuckey, the subsequent legislative act added to the original act by providing a time period.
II. Repeal by Implication
“[R]epeal by implication is disfavored, and is found only when two statutes are incapable of any reasonable reconcilement.” Atlas Food Sys. v. Crane Nat’l Vendors, 319 S.C. 556, 558, 462 S.E.2d 858, 859 (1995) (citing Mims v. Alston, 312 S.C. 311, 440 S.E.2d 357 (1994)). “The repeal of a statute by implication is not favored, and is to be resorted to only in the event of an irreconcilable conflict between the provisions of two statutes,” and “[i]f the provisions of the two statutes can be construed so that both can stand, this Court will so construe them.” In the Interest of Shaw, 274 S.C. 534, 539, 265 S.E.2d 522, 524 (1980) (citing City of Spartanburg v. Blalock, 223 S.C. 252, 75 S.E.2d 361 (1953)). “It is well settled that repeal by implication is not favored and will not be applied if there is any way to reasonably reconcile the statutes.” PalmettoNet, Inc. v.
Here, we find that section 501 was not repealed by implication but rather directly repealed. The intent to repeal section 501 is implied from the language of the amending ordinance. While the amending ordinance did not directly reference section 501, adding “landfill” to the uses “permitted” sufficiently conveys the legislative intent to repeal the section. Hence, the trial court correctly held that the amending ordinance repealed section 501.
III. Last Legislative Expression Rule
If the amending ordinance is deemed ambiguous, the rules of statutory construction are employed to determine legislative intent. When a statute is ambiguous, the Court considers the terms of the statute and employs the rules of statutory interpretation. Wade v. Berkeley County, 348 S.C. 224, 229, 559 S.E.2d 586, 588 (2002) (citing Lester v. South Carolina Workers’ Comp. Comm’n, 334 S.C. 557, 514 S.E.2d 751 (1999)).
“Under the ‘last legislative expression’ rule, where conflicting provisions exist, the last in point of time or order of arrangement, prevails.” Ramsey v.
We find that employing the last legislative expression rule still leads to the conclusion that the Council intended the amending ordinance to change landfills to permitted uses in R-2 Rural Districts. Here, the amending ordinance was not only most recently enacted but specifically added “landfill” to the “uses permitted” in R-2 Rural Districts. Accordingly, the amending ordinance should be given full effect.
Admittedly, “[the last legislative expression rule] is purely an arbitrary rule of construction and is to be resorted to only when there is clearly an irreconcilable conflict, and all other means of interpretation have been exhausted.” Feldman, 203 S.C. at 54, 26 S.E.2d at 24. However, “the Last Legislative Expression Rule requires that in instances where it is not possible to harmonize two sections of a statute, the later legislation supersedes the earlier enactment.” Williams v. Town of
IV. Consideration of Legislative History
“If the language of an act gives rise to doubt or uncertainty as to legislative intent, the construing court may search for that intent beyond the borders of the act itself.” Stephen v. Avins Constr. Co., 324 S.C. 334, 339, 478 S.E.2d 74, 76 (1996). “[L]egislative history only can be resorted to for the purpose of solving doubt, not for the purpose of creating it.” Timmons v.
We find that legislative history does not need to be considered in this case because the amending ordinance is not ambiguous.
If the amending ordinance were ambiguous, we find the trial court did not err in determining that the Council minutes were unhelpful. We have several concerns with the Council minutes. First, the minutes reflect that Susan Bridges (Bridges), the then-acting Zoning Director, gave a confusing explanation of the existing Zoning Ordinance. Bridges said a landfill is “listed as a permitted use under the Special Exceptions,” and “look to list of permitted uses . . . [landfill] is listed as special exception use.” However, a “permitted use” cannot be a “special exception” use. Second, the minutes are merely unofficial summaries of comments by a county staff person as noted by the Council secretary. We assume these notes are accurate reflections of the Council meetings. See Berkely Elec. Coop. v. Mount Pleasant, 308 S.C. 205, 208, 417 S.E.2d 579, 581 (1992) (stating Council minutes that are “properly authenticated or verified are the only competent evidence of the proceedings . . . .”). Still, properly authenticated minutes that communicate the events of a council meeting do not necessarily convey the intent of the legislature. Here, the court’s reliance on confusing statements from the former zoning director would be ill-founded. We find the minutes are not indicative of any “legislative” intent behind the amending ordinance; the trial court did not err in refusing to give weight to these Council minutes.
V. Subject Matter Jurisdiction
The amicus curiae brief raised new issues before this Court. The amicus curiae brief argues the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction on the basis of ripeness and because the trial court improperly exercised original jurisdiction. We disagree.
Initially, we must determine whether the issues raised by the amicus curiae brief are properly before this Court.
Generally, amicus curiae cannot inject new issues into a case; however, courts will consider issues presented by an amicus curiae when the court could raise the issue sua sponte. See 4 Am. Jur.2d Amicus Curiae §7. “In order for an issue to be preserved for appellate review, it must have been raised to and ruled upon by the trial judge.” State v. Dunbar, 356 S.C. 138, 142, 587 S.E.2d 691, 693 (2003). “Issues not raised and ruled upon in the trial court will not be considered on appeal.”
We will address the issues raised by the amicus curiae brief because they involve questions of subject matter jurisdiction and unsettled law in
Amicus curiae alleges that Eagle Container’s challenge of
The question of whether subject matter jurisdiction includes ripeness considerations is a novel issue for this state. Several cases have touched on the possible relationship between the two concepts. The Supreme Court of South Carolina found that “[t]he existence of an actual, justiciable controversy is essential to jurisdiction to render a declaratory judgment,” and “[a] justiciable controversy is a real and substantial controversy which is ripe and appropriate for judicial determination . . . .” Orr v. Clyburn, 277 S.C. 536, 542, 290 S.E.2d 804, 807 (1982) (citing Notios Corp. v. Hanvey, 256 S.C. 275, 182 S.E.2d 55 (1971)); see also Waters v. South Carolina Land Resources Conservation Comm’n, 321 S.C. 219, 227, 467 S.E.2d 913, 917 (1996). Similarly, this court has held “[a] threshold inquiry for any court is a determination of justiciability, i.e., whether the litigation presents an active case or controversy” and that “[t]he concept of justiciability encompasses the doctrines of ripeness, mootness, and standing.” Holden v. Cribb, 349 S.C. 132, 136, 561 S.E.2d 634, 637 (Ct. App. 2002). However, the Supreme Court of South Carolina has also found that “[t]he doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies is generally considered a rule of ‘policy, convenience and discretion, rather than one of law, and is not jurisdictional,’” and “[t]he failure to exhaust administrative remedies goes to the prematurity of a case, not subject matter jurisdiction.” Ward v. State, 343 S.C. 14, 17 n.5, 538 S.E.2d 245, 246 n.5 (2000) (citing Vaught v. Waites, 300 S.C. 201, 205, 387 S.E.2d 91, 93 (Ct. App. 1989)).
Federal Courts and the courts of other jurisdictions have dealt more directly with the interplay of ripeness and subject matter jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held: “Ripeness is more than a mere procedural question; it is determinative of jurisdiction. If a claim is unripe, federal courts lack subject matter jurisdiction and the complaint must be dismissed.” Bigelow v. Michigan Dep’t of Natural Res., 970 F.2d 154, 157 (6th Cir. 1992) (quoting, Southern Pac. Transp. Co. v. City of Los Angeles, 922 F.2d 498, 502 (9th Cir.1990), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 943 (1991)). Likewise, the Texas Court of Appeals recently held that “[r]ipeness, like standing, is a threshold issue that implicates subject matter jurisdiction, and like standing, emphasizes the need for a concrete injury for a justiciable claim to be presented.” City of Weslaco v. Borne, 2005 WL 20000842 (Tex. App. 2005) (citing Patterson v. Planned Parenthood, 971 S.W.2d 439, 442 (
We find that, in line with
Nevertheless, we find ripeness considerations may be and should be raised sua sponte. Both
In this case, a justiciable claim exists and there is no ripeness issue. The Supreme Court of South Carolina has used a two-factor test for determining ripeness: (1) the fitness of the issues for judicial decision, and (2) the hardship to the parties of withholding court consideration. Waters, 321 S.C. 219, 467 S.E.2d 913. Here, the test is satisfied because a real, live case and controversy exists; Eagle Container will have to satisfy the requirements for “special exception” uses if the County’s revocation is valid. Moreover, the issue before the court is a declaratory judgment action for determination of legislative intent. “The determination of legislative intent is a matter of law.”
C. Jurisdiction of Circuit Court
Amicus curiae contends the trial court improperly exercised original jurisdiction because Eagle Container did not challenge the constitutionality or validity of either the Enabling Act or Zoning Ordinance. We disagree.
“In general, judicial review is appropriate only when appeal is from a final agency order.” Smith v. South Carolina Ret. Sys., 336 S.C. 505, 528, 520 S.E.2d 339, 351 (Ct. App. 1999) (citing Garris v. Governing Bd. of South Carolina Reinsurance Facility, 319 S.C. 388, 390, 461 S.E.2d 819, 821 (1995) (citing S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-380(A)). “‘A party aggrieved by the application of an ordinance must invoke and exhaust the administrative remedies provided thereby before he may resort to the courts for relief.’” De Pass v. City of Spartanburg, 234 S.C. 198, 198, 107 S.E.2d 350, 351 (1959) (citing 62 C.J.S. Municipal Corporations § 206, p. 384).
In this case, Eagle Container brought a declaratory judgment action not an appeal of an agency decision. Thus, the trial court did not err in exercising original jurisdiction to determine the effect of the amending ordinance.
D. Effect of Declaratory Judgment Action
Amicus curiae suggest that the trial court erred in allowing Eagle Container to use a declaratory judgment action to circumvent the ripeness requirements. We disagree.
“Declaratory judgment actions must involve an actual, justiciable controversy that is ripe for determination.” Waters, 321 S.C. at 228 n.7, 467 S.E.2d at 918 n.7 (citing S. Bank & Trust Co. v. Harrison Sales Co., 285 S.C. 50, 328 S.E.2d 66 (1985)). “Declaratory Judgment Acts are not in general limited by their express terms to cases where there is no other adequate remedy available, but, on the contrary, are expressly made applicable, like ours, without regard to other relief claimed.” Southern Ry. Co. v. Order of Ry. Conductors of Am., 210 S.C. 121, 126, 41 S.E.2d 774, 779 (1947). “When there exists a genuine controversy . . . requiring a judicial determination, the court is not bound to refuse to exercise its power to declare rights and other legal relations merely because there is another remedy available.”
The claim set forth by Eagle Container involved a justiciable controversy. While Eagle Container had an alternate possibility of relief available (appeal to Board of Zoning), this alternate course required additional measures (satisfying requirement for “special uses”). Thus, the trial court did not err in finding the case ripe for review.
We conclude that, under the “plain meaning rule,” Ordinance No. 12-49-02 clearly and unambiguously amends the Newberry County Zoning Ordinance to change “landfills” to a permitted use in R-2 Rural Districts. In the alternative, if the ordinance is ambiguous, we find the rules of statutory construction, namely the last legislative expression rule, require giving effect to section 301, as amended, over section 501. Accordingly, the decision of the trial court is
HUFF and WILLIAMS, JJ., concur.
 See Ward, 343 S.C. at 17 n.5, 538 S.E.2d at 246 n.5 (distinguishing “prematurity of a case” from subject matter jurisdiction).