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Newburgh ordinance allows it to block town from providing sewer service

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The Indiana Court of Appeals Monday decided that the town of Newburgh was statutorily authorized to pass an ordinance prohibiting others from providing new sewer services to customers within four miles of its corporate boundaries.

The town of Chandler sued Newburgh in Warrick Superior Court in April 2012, trying to get the judge to say Newburgh’s ordinance couldn’t prohibit Chandler from providing new sewer services in an overlapping area. For years the two towns have been providing sewer services within the four-mile rings outside their boundaries, which somewhat overlap. In 2007, Newburgh, pursuant to I.C. 36-9-2-16, -17 and -18, passed the ordinance that gave it an exclusive license to furnish sewer service in the regulated territory.

A developer wanted to build in the regulated territory and got estimates from Newburgh and Chandler on sewer services for the subdivision. The developer chose Chandler because Newburgh’s estimate was much higher. Newburgh then sued the developer for violating its ordinance.

Chandler passed a similar ordinance six weeks after Newburgh. The trial court denied summary judgment for either town.

In Town of Newburgh v. Town of Chandler, 87A01-1305-CT-203, the appellate judges ruled in favor of Newburgh, pointing out that it was the first to pass the ordinance. Courts have long used a first-in-time rule, in the absence of other legislative direction, to resolve disputes when two municipalities possess concurrent and complete jurisdiction of a subject matter.

The statutes in question give municipalities several powers, including the ability to prohibit the furnishing of sewer services within four miles of their boundaries. In order to do so, the municipality must pass an ordinance, which Newburgh did in April 2007.

Chandler put forth several arguments as to why it should prevail, but the appellate court relied on the first-in-time rule.

Senior Judge Randall Shepard noted that Chandler and two amici curiae, the Warrick County Commissioners and the City of Boonville, may have a valid argument that Newburgh’s ordinance will chill economic development. The parties claim Newburgh only enforces the ordinance when significant sewer fees are expected, making developers hesitant to invest in projects in Newburgh’s extraterritorial areas because they worry they will be sued if they choose a cheaper sewer provider.

“Resolution of disputes like the one before us by a commission in the executive branch could likely produce more effective and efficient results. The creation of such mechanisms, however, is in the domain of the legislature and not the courts,” he wrote.

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  1. A sad end to a prolific gadfly. Indiana has suffered a great loss in the journalistic realm.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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