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COA reverses trial court on Kroger building proposal

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled that the Town of Plainfield Plan Commission must provide The Kroger Co. with specific reasons its building plan was denied or allow Kroger to build a gas station as planned.

In The Kroger Co, et al. v. Plan Commission of the Town of Plainfield, Indiana, No. 32A04-1012-MI-751, Kroger appealed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of the plan commission, alleging the plan commission’s zoning ordinance does not satisfy the specificity requirement of the Zoning Enabling Act.  

Kroger owns and operates a retail store located at the intersection of State Road 267 and U.S. 40. On October 29, 2009, Kroger submitted a petition seeking approval of its plan to construct a fuel center on the western edge of its property. The plan commission denied that petition, stating the development was not appropriate to its surroundings, was not consistent with the intent and purpose of the Plainfield Zoning Ordinance, and would create a public safety hazard.

In support of its argument, Kroger cited Hendricks Cnty. Board of Comm'rs v. Rieth-Riley Construction Co., 868 N.E.2d at 852 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007),(citing T.W. Thom Const., Inc. v. City of Jeffersonville, 721 N.E.2d 319, 327 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999)), in which the Court of Appeals concluded that an ordinance lacked the necessary specificity and allowed the plan commission “unfettered power to deny development plans if it decides, by whim or otherwise, that the plan contravenes one of the factors listed in the Ordinance.”

But in Kroger, unlike in Rieth-Riley, the Plainfield Zoning Ordinance did provide Kroger with detailed information regarding what development requirements and factors the plan commission would consider when formulating its decision about whether to allow the proposed development, the court held. However, the appeals court held that in denying Kroger’s petition, the plan commission more or less replicated what was already established in the Plainfield Zoning Ordinance.

The appeals court stated that the commission’s findings do not provide sufficient details about why Kroger’s proposed development of a gas station was not appropriate to the site and its surroundings or consistent with the intent and purposes of the Plainfield Zoning Ordinance. Likewise, the findings do not inform Kroger how its proposed development would create a public safety hazard.

The COA remanded the matter to the trial court for further proceedings, holding that if the plan commission cannot provide specific reasons why Kroger’s development plan was denied, then it should grant Kroger’s request to build a fuel center.
 

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