COA reinstates Madison City Council rezoning denial

A decision by the Madison City Council to deny a local couple’s request to rezone a property was not arbitrary and capricious and, thus, must be reinstated, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

In May 2010, William and Betty Demaree filed an application with the City of Madison Planning Commission to rezone their property from residential to general business. The commission voted to give the application an unfavorable recommendation, and on appeal the Madison City Council instructed the Demarees to return to the commission for a recommendation from the full board.

When the commission revisited the Demarees’ application in October 2010, its members decided to give a favorable recommendation. However, after three hearings before the council, the Demarees’ application was denied.

The couple took their complaint to the Jefferson Circuit Court, which reversed the council’s decision in January 2016. The City of Madison appealed in City of Madison, Indiana v. William L. Demaree and Betty K. Demaree, 39A01-1602-MI-401, arguing the trial court applied the wrong standard of review, but the Demarees did not file an appellees’ brief. 

The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with the city. Senior Judge John Sharpnack wrote that the Jefferson Circuit Court relied on statutes inapplicable to the city’s case. Specifically, the trial court cited Indiana Code section 34-13-6-4(a), (b) and (f) (1998) and section 34-13-6-5(a) and (b) (1998).

“The whole of Indiana Code chapter 34-13-6 is inapplicable to this case because it concerns appeals from actions of municipalities where an appeal is allowed by statute,” Sharpnack wrote. “As we have noted, there is no provision in our state statutes for an appeal of a legislative body’s denial of a rezoning request.”

Sharpnack specifically noted the trial court’s reliance on section 34-13-6-4(b) was misplaced because that section provides for a de novo standard of review, when the appropriate review of a rezoning determination would have been conducted under an arbitrary or capricious standard.

“Thus, the evidence indicates the Planning Commission and the City Council received information about, heard comment on, and weighed and discussed all of the factors required to be considered by Indiana Code section 36-7-4-603,” Sharpnack wrote. “The balancing of these factors suggested to the City Council that this rezoning was not appropriate. These concerns provide a rational basis for the City of Madison’s decision to deny the Demarees’ rezoning application, and therefore it is not arbitrary and capricious.”

The panel reversed and remanded to Jefferson Circuit Court with instructions to affirm the council’s denial of the rezoning application.


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