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COA: Business is a nuisance to homeowners

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Despite modifications to a mycelium-drying business located adjacent to a farmhouse, the business is still a nuisance that deprives the homeowners from the free use and enjoyment of their property, ruled the Indiana Court of Appeals.

The appellate court reversed the Wabash Circuit Court's decision, which found that because Ted Parker had made modifications to his business, homeowners Randall Bonewitz and Russell Dellinger weren't entitled to a permanent injunction against the business. Bonewitz and Dellinger purchased the farmhouse from Parker in 1997; after the sale, Parker still owned the adjacent land and used it for farming hay. In 2003, he started a business that dries wet mycelium - a byproduct of the manufacture of food-grade citric acid - to sell for use in animal feed. The furnace is about 150 feet from the home and Parker received the proper permits to rezone his land from agricultural use to business/commercial use.

In 2007, the homeowners filed suit alleging the business is a nuisance because of the foul smells omitted, dust in the air, and constant trucking in of sawdust, which fuels the dryer for the mycelium. They sought a permanent injunction or damages. The trial court declined to enter a total preliminary injunction or damages, but ordered Parker be permanently enjoined from unloading sawdust outside the pole building.

In Bonewitz and Dellinger v. Parker, No. 85A04-0901-CV-16, the Court of Appeals disagreed with the trial court's decision that the effect on Bonewitz and Dellinger's home has been "greatly reduced" by Parker's efforts to mitigate truck noise, dust, and vibrations from his business. The undisputed evidence shows they continue to live with a stench that permeates the house, they can't use their yard, or open their windows, wrote Judge Edward Najam.

"Those infringements are not occasional or incidental, and they are more than an annoyance or inconvenience. While the nuisance may have been partially ameliorated, it has not been abated," he wrote.

Parker's argument that the pair bought the home knowing they were in an agriculturally zoned area and they can't complain about the discomfort based on agricultural uses failed because Parker's company isn't agricultural; it's a business that required rezoning. The issue is the magnitude of the business and Parker even admitted only 10 percent of his production is for his own use, wrote the judge.

Instead of ordering permanent injunctive relief, which would probably destroy Parker's business, the Court of Appeals remanded to the trial court to determine if the homeowners can be made whole with a monetary judgment. If so, then it should consider the evidence of their damages, including damages for discomfort and annoyance, when coming up with an amount.

If the trial court determines Bonewitz and Dellinger can't be made whole with a money judgment, then the court shall issue the total, permanent injunction against Parker's business.

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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