COA sends property zoning dispute back to local BZA

A property zoning dispute has been remanded to the Jeffersonville Board of Zoning Appeals after the Indiana Court of Appeals found Thursday that BZA members did not enter proper findings of fact when handing down an adverse decision.

Riverside Meadows I LLC owns a building in Jeffersonville and, at the time relevant to the appeal, was renting out the rooms in the building to 11 adults. The property was zoned for low-density multifamily residential, and the city of Jeffersonville notified Riverside that its use of the property violated city zoning ordinances.

In response, Riverside filed an application for a use variance with the Jeffersonville Board of Zoning Appeals, seeking to use the building as a “rooming house.” BZA members denied Riverside’s request after a public meeting, finding that the request did not meet the general requirements of the ordinance.

Riverside then filed a petition for judicial review of the BZA’s decision, and the Clark Circuit Court denied Riverside’s petition in January 2016. After a motion to correct error was denied, Riverside appealed in Riverside Meadows I, LLC v. City of Jeffersonville, Indiana Board of Zoning Appeals, 10A05-1608-PL-1828.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial in a Thursday opinion, with Judge Paul Mathias noting in the case of Carlton v. Bd. Of Zoning Appeals of City of Indianapolis, 252 Ind. 56, 63, 245 N.E.2d, the Indiana Supreme Court held that, “For reasons which exist independently of the statute, the Board is required to set out findings of fact which support those determinations … . The facts should be found specifically and not generally … .”

As applicable to the instant case, Mathias wrote that the BZA’s finding must be tailored to address the specific facts presented to the board, not “merely a general replication of the requirements of the ordinance at issue.”

“Here, the BZA’s findings of fact are nothing more than a recitation of the statutory language and an indication of how the members of the BZA voted on whether these statutory requirements had been met,” Mathias wrote. “In the portion of the form used by the BZA to record its findings, the space left for specific findings was left blank. Thus, the BZA’s ‘findings’ are nothing of the sort required to permit adequate judicial review of the BZA’s decisions.”

However, Mathias further wrote that the proper remedy for Riverside was not a new hearing, but rather a remand of the case to the BZA to enter the necessary findings of fact to support its decision.

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