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COA reverses ruling against Carmel in building dispute

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A Carmel couple who successfully sued the city that at first permitted construction of an accessory building that neighbors later complained was taller than zoning codes allowed lost Friday at the Indiana Court of Appeals.

The panel reversed Hamilton Superior Judge Steve Nation’s grant of a declaratory judgment in favor of Albert and Julie Bowen and U.S. Architects, holding that the plaintiffs had not exhausted their administrative remedies with the city before suing.

The Carmel Department of Community Services issued a building permit and certificate of occupancy after the Bowens and their architect submitted design plans. But after neighbors Joseph and Charlene Barnette complained about the building height of more than 36 feet, the department notified the Bowens that the building was in violation.

The ordinance limits the height of accessory buildings to 18 feet.

The city advised the Bowens to seek a variance through the Carmel/Clay Board of Zoning Appeals, but the BZA denied the variance request. The Bowens didn’t appeal the zoning board ruling or DCS’ withdrawal of the certificate of occupancy, choosing to sue instead. The trial court ruled in favor of the Bowens and granted a declaratory judgment.

“The Barnettes contend that the declaratory judgment action should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the Bowens failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. We agree,” Judge Terry Crone wrote for the panel in Joseph D. Barnette, Jr., and Charlene Barnette, and City of Carmel Department of Community Services, Division of Building and Code Services, et al. v. US Architects, LLP, Albert D. Bowen, et al., 29A02-1304-PL-309.

The matter is remanded to the trial court with orders to dismiss the complaint.
 
“The DCS is not estopped from enforcing the (zoning) Ordinance because the relevant facts were equally known by or accessible to the Bowens and the City. And because the Bowens failed to exhaust their administrative remedies, which would have afforded them due process, they cannot complain about a due process violation,” the panel held.

The panel affirmed the trial court ruling that U.S. Architects lacked standing to bring a declaratory judgment action.

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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