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Judges disagree on meaning of language in city ordinance

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a trial court in a property dispute, but Judge Ezra Friedlander disagreed with the majority based on his interpretation of “conspicuous change.”

In New Albany Historic Preservation Commission and City of New Albany v. Bradford Realty, Inc., No. 22A01-1108-PL-365, the New Albany Historic Preservation Commission and City of New Albany (NAHPC) appealed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Bradford Realty. Bradford, which has owned a building in downtown New Albany since 1966, had successfully argued at trial that it was not required to obtain permission for exterior repairs because the NAHPC had never notified Bradford that its building was in a designated historic district.

In 1999, New Albany created Ordinance Section 151.06, which established rules and procedures pertaining to external modifications of buildings within its historic district. While the city published a notice about a public meeting before adopting the ordinance, it did not notify individual property owners of the impending rule. The ordinance was adopted in 2002.

In 2008, Bradford began to renovate the exterior of its building, replacing worn clapboard with vinyl siding. The historic preservation commission sent a letter notifying Bradford that Bradford needed a certificate of appropriateness before proceeding with an exterior modification of the property. Bradford responded that because it owned the building before the historic district existed, it was not bound by provisions of the ordinance. After completing repairs to the exterior, Bardford filed for its certificate of appropriateness as a courtesy to the Historic Preservation Commission, and the application was denied.

At trial, Bradford contended the NAHPC was obligated under the United States Constitution’s 14th Amendment to provide notice of the ordinance. But citing Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank & Trust Co., 339 U.S. 306, 314 (1950), the Court of Appeals disagreed.

Applying Mullane, the appellate court held that the city ordinance was a legislative act that did not fall within the purview of due process requirements under the 14th Amendment. It therefore reversed and remanded to the trial court to enter summary judgment for NAHPC.

In his dissent, Friedlander said that the ordinance requires property owners to obtain permission before making “conspicuous changes,” and in this context, he interpreted that to mean a change in character, with respect to appearance.

Looking at before and after photos of the building, Friedlander concluded the change did not alter the character of the building, and therefore, he would affirm the trial court.

 

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