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COA reverses ruling in favor of couple who kept alpacas in residential area

March 31, 2015

The Indiana Court of Appeals held Tuesday that a Lake County court erred when it denied the county’s request for an injunction to prevent a couple from keeping alpacas on their property to raise for business purposes.

Alan and Kimberly Pahl purchased 10 acres of land in January 2006 in a five-lot subdivision. Prior to their purchase, the land had been used for agricultural purposes and they believed it was still zoned for agricultural purposes. But it had been rezoned to single family residential in 1995 in order to create the subdivision.

In May 2008, the Pahls brought alpacas onto the property. Their fiber is sent to a mill in trade for a finished product. Sometimes Kimberly Pahl would sell the fiber directly to spinners or use it in her own products for sale.

The Lake County Plan Commission informed the Pahls that they could not keep the alpacas on the property based on zoning ordinances. The Pahls believed based on I.C. 36-7-4-616, their land would be protected for agricultural purposes.

The trial court ruled in favor of the Pahls, noting that the property has been classified for agricultural use in the county’s comprehensive plan since 1957 and that the property falls under I.C. 36-7-4-616(b)(2). The trial court also denied the county’s motion to correct errors.

In County of Lake and the Lake County Plan Commission v. Alan J. Pahl and Roderick Pahl, 45A03-1406-PL-214, the COA reversed because the trial court failed to apply subsection (f) of the statute in question and the relevant portions of the zoning ordinance to the Pahls’ use of the land. Subsection (f) states that the section does not prohibit a county from requiring an agricultural nonconforming use to be maintained and operated in compliance with all requirements to which conforming agricultural use land is subject under the county’s comprehensive plan or zoning ordinance.

Section 2.7 of the zoning ordinance in question requires at least 20 acres of land in order to keep, raise or breed farm animals. The judges noted the other provisions of the zoning ordinance applicable to the Pahls’ land, which should have led the trial court to rule in favor of the county. The case was remanded with instructions to grant Lake County’s petition for an injunction.  

 

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