COA again denies attempt to stop new construction in historic Indianapolis district

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Continued attempts to halt the construction of a parking lot and retail center in a historic Indianapolis district by a collection of nearby homeowners has been bulldozed after the Court of Appeals of Indiana ruled the residents lacked standing when they failed to allege injury as a result of the project.

Back in 2016, some downtown Indianapolis locals became angry about a new development project near the Lockerbie Glove Factory Town Homes proposed by developer Dan Jacobs when he submitted an application for a certificate of appropriateness.

That application, reviewed and later approved by the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission, called for a five-story, multiuse building with 67 apartment units, retail and gallery space, a roof deck and 261 internal parking spaces.

Eight homeowners in the surrounding area who are not members of the local neighborhood association submitted an objection letter to the commission concerning the project, arguing that the efforts would break a covenant issued to The Athenaeum Foundation in 2001 by the Lockerbie Square People’s Club.

The commission ultimately approved the application for a certificate of appropriateness and the Court of Appeals of Indiana affirmed the denial of the homeowners’ petition for judicial review and motion to compel certain discovery from Athenaeum and Jacobs.

After the COA affirmed, some of the homeowners filed a verified complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief in April 2021. On second appeal, they claimed that construction of Block 20, the name of the development, did not match the certificate of appropriateness and that it had expired without being properly extended.

They also argued that the defects were in violation of Indiana statutes governing historic preservation.

The trial court granted a motion for judgment on the pleadings on the basis of the appellants’ lack of standing, which the COA affirmed in Lockerbie Glove Company Town Home Owner’s Association, Inc., Elliot J. Serena Androphy, Cherri D. Hobgood, Sashwati Roy, Chandan K. Sen, and Brian Edward West v. Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission, Daniel C. Jacobs, and The Athenaeum Foundation, Inc., 22A-PL-204.

Finding the issue to be dispositive, the COA noted that despite the appellants’ argument that the appellate court should apply the definition for “interested party” found in Chapter 11.3 as the meaning of “interested person” in Chapter 11.1, that latter chapter ultimately does not mention “standing” or “injury.”

“And Appellants concede that they have not alleged an injury,” Judge Elizabeth Tavitas wrote.

The COA noted that while the appellants claimed for the first time on appeal that they have suffered an injury, they still asserted that they were exempt from proving it.

“More importantly, however, we must reject the suggestion that requiring a showing of injury for standing purposes commits us to ruling that the statutes in question are unconstitutional,” Tavitas wrote. “None of the relevant statutes are violative of Article 1, Section 12 of the Indiana Constitution. It does not follow from the fact that the remedies are unavailable to Appellants that the remedies do not exist.”

The court further declined to interpret Chapter 11.1 as granting standing to the undefined “interested person” even in the absence of injury.

“Given that Appellants concede they alleged no injury below, and injury is a constitutionally minimum requirement to establish standing, we conclude that the trial court did not err in granting Appellees’ motion for judgment on the pleadings,” the opinion concluded.

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