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. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.