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Supreme Court rules landowner must pay county drainage assessment

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A Marshall County landowner will have to pay a drainage assessment on a county-maintained ditch, even though he said his property derives little benefit from the drainage system for which he’s ordered to pay a share.

The Indiana Supreme Court on Monday affirmed a Marshall Circuit Court decision that upheld the county drainage board’s assessment of $7,055.41 on 26 acres that Thomas R. Crowell owns near the northern Indiana city of Plymouth.

“We affirm the assessment because under Indiana law, all landowners whose surface water flows into a drain receive a benefit by virtue of that drainage,” Justice Frank Sullivan Jr. wrote in a unanimous opinion. 

Crowel argued that his property was not in the watershed drained by the maintenance project in question, but the justices said “the extent to which property is benefited is a question of fact to be decided by the (drainage) board in the first instance,” and that the burden of proof is on landowners to prove they are not benefited by a drainage project.

“Because Crowel did not seek de novo review in the trial court under [I.C. § 36-9-27-107(a)] the board’s decision is conclusive and not susceptible to attack on appeal,” Sullivan wrote.

 

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