ILNews

Court reverses COA decision in zoning issue

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed that both the Board of Zoning Appeals of Evansville-Vanderburgh County and trial court were correct in denying the construction of a cellular tower that would be located too close to a residence under a county zoning code.

In St. Charles Tower, Inc. v. Board of Zoning Appeals of Evansville-Vanderburgh County, 82S01-0702-CV-69, the state's highest court yesterday overturned the Court of Appeals ruling that found the BZA's decision to deny St. Charles the special-use permit was not supported by substantial evidence.

St. Charles Tower, which constructs and installs cellular tower structures, wanted to build a tower in Vanderburgh County, where the county zoning code required St. Charles to get a special-use permit and variance from a setback requirement in the zoning ordinance. The BZA voted to deny St. Charles' application for the permit, and the company withdrew its application for the variance.

After the denial by the BZA, St. Charles filed a petition for writ of certiorari, judicial review, and declaratory judgment to overturn BZA's decision. In March 2006, the trial court affirmed BZA's decision. The Court of Appeals reversed the ruling, citing the denial by BZA was not supported by substantial evidence and remanded for a hearing as to whether St. Charles was entitled to the variance.

St. Charles argued that "substantial evidence" in this case is different from that usually employed in Indiana zoning cases because this case is subject to the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996. The TCA states any decision by a state or local government to deny a request to place, construct, or modify personal wireless service facilities shall be in writing and supported by substantial evidence.

Justice Frank Sullivan wrote in the Supreme Court opinion that the substantial evidence definition in the TCA is the same under Indiana law. Although the court agreed with the Court of Appeals in its analysis of the legal effect of the TCA substantial evidence test on this case, the Supreme Court found that the test was not met here and there is substantial evidence in the record to support BZA's denial of St. Charles' application.

Even though the area where the cell tower was to be erected was zoned agricultural, it was still near residences in the area. The setback requirement in a subsection of the county zoning code applies to all zoning districts where cell towers are permitted, not just residential zones. Also, the BZA requires any applicant seeking a special-use permit for a cell tower has to show the tower will be at least 300 feet from the nearest residence or two feet for each foot of height for the tower, whichever is greater.
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  1. On a related note, I offered the ICLU my cases against the BLE repeatedly, and sought their amici aid repeatedly as well. Crickets. Usually not even a response. I am guessing they do not do allegations of anti-Christian bias? No matter how glaring? I have posted on other links the amicus brief that did get filed (search this ezine, e.g., Kansas attorney), read the Thomas More Society brief to note what the ACLU ran from like vampires from garlic. An Examiner pledged to advance diversity and inclusion came right out on the record and demanded that I choose Man's law or God's law. I wonder, had I been asked to swear off Allah ... what result then, ICLU? Had I been found of bad character and fitness for advocating sexual deviance, what result then ICLU? Had I been lifetime banned for posting left of center statements denigrating the US Constitution, what result ICLU? Hey, we all know don't we? Rather Biased.

  2. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

  3. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  4. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  5. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

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