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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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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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