ILNews

Amended ordinance doesn't apply to travel plaza

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An Allen Superior Court correctly ruled that a travel plaza had a vested right to develop its plans under an original zoning ordinance, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed today.

The case of City of New Haven Board of Zoning Appeals v. Flying J. Inc., No. 02A03-0905-CV-74, came before the appellate court again after the Court of Appeals ruled that all of the proposed services Flying J wanted to offer at its 17.7-acre site were permitted under the zoned C-1 District. The New Haven Board of Zoning Appeals determined certain proposed services weren't permitted under the C-1 zoning ordinance.

The case was remanded to enter a final order in favor of Flying J, but while the litigation was under way, New Haven amended its C-1 zoning ordinance restricting the size of service stations to 2 acres or less. As applied, the amended ordinance affected only Flying J.

Flying J was unaware of the zoning changes and submitted its development plan to the BZA; the board rejected it citing the amended ordinance. The trial court reversed.

At issue is whether the amended zoning ordinance is applicable to Flying J's planned travel plaza. The BZA argued because Flying J hadn't begun construction on the plaza, it had no vested right to develop it pursuant to the original zoning ordinance; Flying J argued it had a vested right, its plaza is a nonconforming use, and the amended zoning ordinance doesn't apply.

The Court of Appeals relied on several cases including the three involving the Metropolitan Development Commission of Marion County v. Pinnacle Media. In Pinnacle I, 836 N.E.2d 422, 424 (Ind. 2006), the Indiana Supreme Court emphasized that the developer had yet to begin construction on the billboards in question. In Pinnacle II, 846 N.E.2d 654, 655-56 (Ind. 2006), the high court further explained vested rights may well accrue prior to filing of certain applications. The Court of Appeals determined in Pinnacle III, 868 N.E.2d 894, 900-01 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007), that there is no bright-line rule that construction has to begin to show a vested right and that the existence of vested rights is fact-dependent.

"We read the Pinnacle cases to mean that, while construction definitely does establish a vested right, mere preliminary work, including filing of a building permit, does not. In situations falling between these two extremes, courts must engage in a fact-sensitive analysis to determine whether vested rights have accrued prior to application for a building permit or construction," wrote Judge Paul Mathias.

In the instant case, Flying J hadn't begun construction but it had spent millions of dollars to prepare for construction, including surveying and engineering costs. These costs could give rise to a vested right, wrote the judge.

Under the facts and circumstances of the case, the appellate court couldn't say the trial court erred in finding the amended zoning ordinances were subject to Flying J's vested right in the property and the amended ordinance wasn't applicable to the plaza.

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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