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Judges reverse judgment in favor of town in water agreement dispute

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A trial court erred as a matter of law in its interpretation of a disputed section of a water agreement between a real estate developer and the town of Huntertown; as such, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed partial summary judgment in favor of the town.

Carroll Creek and Huntertown entered into a water agreement in October 2000 in which Carroll Creek would pay for constructing a water main that connects to Huntertown’s water service facility. Carroll Creek could recoup nearly $465,000 of its costs via a water connection charge from certain owners of real estate who connected to the water main.

Those charges led to this lawsuit and appeal, Carroll Creek Development Company, Inc. v. Town of Huntertown, Indiana, 02A03-1307-PL-282. At issue is Section 4.1 of the agreement. The water main will serve real estate in a defined “excess area.” The section states: “In the event any present or future owners of real estate within the excess areas shall, at any time within fifteen (15) years after the date of this Agreement, desire to connect into the Water Main, whether by direct tap or through the extension or connection of lateral lines to service the real estate situated in the excess area or adjacent to the excess area, to the extent permitted by law, … .”

Carroll Creek and Huntertown couldn’t agree whether this section required people who lived in the Ravenswood subdivision and another subdivision on the Ruth Nobis farm to pay the connection charge. Huntertown argued that those homeowners do not have to pay because they are not included in the “excess area” as defined in the water agreement. Carroll Creek’s interpretation of Section 4.1 was that the owners of real estate in the excess area who connected to the water main would be subject to the area connection charge when they used their water main connection to service real estate that was in either the excess area or area adjacent to the excess area. The company argued Huntertown failed to prove that the property owners in question had never owned property in the excess area.

The trial court granted summary judgment to Huntertown on the issue. The judge concluded that the “whether by” clause in Section 4.1 was intended to clarify that the excess area owners will be subject to area connection charges even if they do not connect to the water main directly. But this interpretation changes the “to service real estate situated in the excess area or adjacent to the excess area” language to “that service the real estate …,” the judges noted. In doing so, the court disregarded the plain language of the water agreement.

“The plain language in Section 4.1 of the Water Agreement provides that owners of real estate in the excess area are subject to the area connection charge if they connect, directly or indirectly, to the water main 'to service the real estate situated in the excess area or adjacent to the excess area[.]' Thus, the language of Section 4.1, agreed upon by the parties, shows that the intent of the parties was that the area connection charge would be assessed against excess area owners in two specified situations,” Judge Rudolph Pyle III wrote.

The appeals court remanded for further proceedings.
 

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  1. Too many attorneys take their position as a license to intimidate and threaten non attorneys in person and by mail. Did find it ironic that a reader moved to comment twice on this article could not complete a paragraph without resorting to insulting name calling (rethuglican) as a substitute for reasoned discussion. Some people will never get the point this action should have made.

  2. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  3. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  4. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

  5. I have dealt with more than a few I-465 moat-protected government attorneys and even judges who just cannot seem to wrap their heads around the core of this 800 year old document. I guess monarchial privileges and powers corrupt still ..... from an academic website on this fantastic "treaty" between the King and the people ... "Enduring Principles of Liberty Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. There are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day: "No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." "To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice." Inspiration for Americans During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution ("no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.") is a direct descendent of Magna Carta's guarantee of proceedings according to the "law of the land." http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/magna_carta/

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