Party not aggrieved by vacation of alley by university

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the decision by the Angola Plan Commission to vacate a portion of an alley on Trine University property, finding property owners were not aggrieved by the vacation.

David and Susan MacFadyen owned property in Angola that is contiguous to property owned by Trine University. An alley runs along the back of the MacFadyens’ lot through Trine’s property to University Avenue. The portion of the alley on Trine’s property is not improved. It petitioned the plan commission to vacate certain lot lines and the part of the alley that is on its real estate.

The MacFadyens are still able to access their property using the remaining portion of the alley, but David MacFadyen claimed the vacation of part of the alley on Trine’s property would have “substantial negative impact” on the value of his property because Trine was cutting off access from the alley that would allow one to drive to the university.

The commission also heard evidence that Trine’s development activities may have actually caused an increase in property values. It approved the university’s petition.

Judge Melissa May noted that six months before the MacFadyens filed their petition for judicial review, the General Assembly amended I.C. 36-7-4-1003, removing the language that a person bringing the petition must be “aggrieved.” But the MacFadyens did not argue that there is no longer a requirement that a party be “aggrieved” or “prejudiced” and the COA declined to hold the Legislature’s modification of the statutory language reflects an intent to allow challenges by persons who are not aggrieved or prejudiced by a plan commission action.

“The Commission received evidence the MacFadyens still had access to the rear of their property over the remaining portion of the alley and the value of their property was not diminished. We acknowledge the MacFadyens’ allegations to the contrary, but we may not reweigh that evidence. We therefore cannot find they were aggrieved,” she wrote in David J. and Susan L. MacFadyen v. City of Angola, City of Angola Plan Commission, and Trine University, Inc., 17A03-1506-CT-556.

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