ILNews

Judges rule on New Albany land case

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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Debate over land once earmarked for the 1960s expansion of Interstate 64 through New Albany has gone to the Indiana Court of Appeals, which ruled today in that case.

The three-judge panel ruled in Donald Jensen, et al. v. The City of New Albany, et al., holding that a reversionary clause in a 1960 deed was unenforceable after land was transferred to the state more than four decades ago.

Land in question was 5.82 acres known as the Fawcett property, which the original owner had left in a 1935 warranty deed to the city of New Albany for use as a municipal park and golf course. When the state began preparing to construct part of I-64 through the city, it purchased the course and Fawcett property. However, a large amount was not used and through the years was used for various recreational purposes. The state eventually executed a quitclaim deed in 2004 returning the unused I-64 land to Floyd Memorial Hospital and Community Housing Development Organization, which wanted to build houses on the property.

Appellants - six couples describing themselves as residents and park users, and some relatives of the original land owner - filed a complaint, noting the 1935 deed and reversionary clause, claiming that if the land wasn't used for its intended purpose (the park or ensuing interstate project), it would revert to the rightful heirs. The trial court denied the defendants' request for summary judgment, but it also denied appellants' request for declaratory judgment and an injunction.

In its opinion, the Court of Appeals wrote that the 1935 deed was extinguished upon the 1960 deed's execution. The decision is controlled by an Indiana Supreme Court decision - Dible v. City of Lafayette, 713 N.E.2d 269 (Ind. 1999) - which said that neither a restrictive covenant nor reversionary clause is "enforceable against an entity with the power of eminent domain."

"Appellants apparently believe that the rule in Dible is limited to those situations in which a condemning authority has actually exercised its power of eminent domain," the court wrote. "This is not the case. The question is not whether an entity condemned property, but whether the entity had the power to do so, the rationale being that if the property owner refused to sell the property, the condemning authority would simply exercise its power of eminent domain."
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  1. A sad end to a prolific gadfly. Indiana has suffered a great loss in the journalistic realm.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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