ILNews

Company loses inverse condemnation claim

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The 17-month period beginning when a Terre Haute Board of Zoning Appeals ordered a company seeking a special exception to provide public water to surrounding homes and ending when that condition was overturned by a judge did not constitute inverse condemnation, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Wednesday.

In Midwest Minerals, Inc. v. Fred L. Wilson, Rick Jenkins, Joseph Kenworthy, Michael Tewell, and James Clayton, et al., 84A04-1205-MI-258, Midwest Minerals Inc. argued that the trial court erred when it applied the doctrine of collateral estoppel to support a conclusion of law, and it claimed that a regulatory taking occurred with respect to real property owned by the company. Midwest Minerals’ efforts to build a molecular gas processing unit on property zoned for heavy industrial use in West Terre Haute has been litigated several times since 2002.

In 2005, Midwest sought the special exception that the Board of Zoning Appeals of the Area Plan Commission of Vigo County said it needed to build the plant, which the BZA granted under certain conditions in February 2006. At issue in this appeal is the public water condition, requiring Midwest to provide public water to any residential use within ½ mile of any wells associated with coal mine methane processing.

Seventeen months later, a judge overturned that decision, removing the public water condition. The BZA didn’t appeal that decision and Midwest has been free to begin construction on the processing unit, but has not. Instead, it sued the BZA and the Board of Commissioners of Vigo County, alleging the public water condition constituted a taking without compensation under Article I, Section 21 of the Indiana Constitution and sought damages.

The trial court ruled in favor of the boards, finding the doctrine of collateral estoppel applied with respect to an issue determined in a prior declaratory judgment action – whether Midwest proved the boards prevented Midwest’s “complete” use of a mineral resource outside of an urban area. The judge also found there was no inverse condemnation.

The Court of Appeals affirmed, pointing out that while the question of whether a taking occurred wasn’t raised in the previous declaratory judgment action, whether the boards prevented the complete use of the gas found on the property had been fully litigated and determined, so it cannot be relitigated here.

Regarding the inverse condemnation claim, the boards’ actions did not constitute a taking. During those 17 months, evidence showed that Midwest could have removed the gas from the land by pumping it into trucks and taking it to another area to purify, Judge Edward Najam pointed out. In addition, Midwest didn’t purchase the property with the intent of harvesting and processing the gas, but had it for years before entering into a contract with another company to explore and develop the gas interests in the land.

Finally, Midwest and the company it contracted with have yet to start construction on the processing unit, even though it’s been more than five years since the court struck down the public water condition.

 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

ADVERTISEMENT