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COA: variance for residential wind turbine allowed

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The Court of Appeals today affirmed a decision from the Warrick Superior Court that found the Board of Zoning Appeals of the Area Plan Commission of Warrick County was right in allowing a 20-foot variance for the construction of a residential wind turbine.

In Timothy Hamby, et al. v. Board of Zoning Appeals of the Area Plan Commission of Warrick County and the Board of Commissioners of Warrrick County No. 87A04-0912-CV-700, Timothy Hamby and 13 other homeowners raised the issue of whether the Superior Court erred in denying their claim for declaratory relief.

David Johnson and Phyllis Stilwell, through their contractor Morton Energy, had applied for a zoning variance “to allow an Improvement Location Permit to be issued for a wind turbine exceeding the maximum height requirement in an R-2 Multiple Family Zoning District…,” according to the opinion.

They asked for a 20-foot zoning variance to install the wind turbine to have an alternative energy source as a way to save money and to reduce greenhouse gases. After a hearing Sept. 24, 2008, the Board of Zoning Appeals allowed their request for the variance Oct. 22, 2008.

In November 2008, the homeowners filed their claim at the trial court level against the BZA’s decision on the issue claiming, among other things, that the use of a wind turbine for a residential property is not “customary” according to the Comprehensive Ordinance, Article X, Section 1 regarding use regulations for R-2 districts.

The Warrick Superior Court ultimately found in favor of the BZA in November 2009, and today the Court of Appeals affirmed that decision regarding the definition of customary.

“We do not believe that the ‘customary in connection with’ requirement for an accessory use structure should be construed so as to prevent the implementation of new technologies in residential districts,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote. “Indeed, if, as Homeowners contend, the definition requires that the intended use be demonstrated as a ‘habitual practice,’ this would preclude improvements in the standard of living since innovations in the production of energy and other technologies could not have been ‘established by custom; usual or habitual’ at the time of the adoption of the Comprehensive Ordinance. Such a requirement would be contrary to public policy.

“We also note that Homeowners do not specify whether a ‘habitual practice’ be confined to that by the Applicants’ neighbors, to that within Warrick County more generally, or whether we should take a broader view. Moreover, Homeowners, as plaintiffs and appellants, have the burden of proof, and they do not include any evidence in the record to demonstrate that residential wind turbines are uncommon (or not customary) in Warrick County.”

Judge Brown went on to write about federal incentives for having alternative energy sources and that state governments and the federal government have made it a priority to have more sources of alternative energy.

“Because we construe a zoning ordinance to favor the free use of land and will not extend restrictions by implication, see Saurer, 629 N.E.2d at 898, and because the Comprehensive Ordinance under R-2 permits accessory use structures, we conclude that a residential wind turbine that meets all of the other requirements of the Comprehensive Ordinance is a permitted use in the R-2 zoning district,” Judge Brown wrote. “…Homeowners have not met their burden of proving that the trial court erred in denying their claim for declaratory relief.”
 

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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