COA reverses Owen County denial of trash transfer station   

A family-owned trash collection business hoping to set up a new transfer station in Owen County won a reversal from the Indiana Court of Appeals following its struggle to proceed due to a dispute with county officials.

In 2018, Monster Trash, a Spencer-based trash collection business, applied to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for a license to operate a solid waste transfer station at 2243 State Highway 43 in Owen County.

But the trash collectors hit a roadblock during the application process when the Owen County Board of Zoning Appeals, the Owen County Council, and the Owen County Commissioners refused to issue a document required by IDEM indicating that no rezoning or variance would be necessary for Monster Trash’s operation of a waste transfer station on the property.

Monster Trash petitioned for a declaratory judgment that its intended use of the property was permitted pursuant to the Owen County Zoning and Subdivision Control Ordinance, but the Morgan Circuit Court ultimately entered declaratory judgment in favor of the county.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed after disagreeing with the trial court’s ruling, siding with the trash collectors in Monster Trash, Inc. v. Owen County Council, et al., 20A-PL-00918.

“The BZA apparently refused to issue the requested document because it interprets the Ordinance as absolutely prohibiting the operation of a solid waste transfer station on the Property (an interpretation the County urges on appeal), but this is simply not true. Subsection 3.5 of the Ordinance clearly provides that such stations are prohibited unless they are “licensed and approved by the

State of Indiana[,]” which means that they are, in fact, not absolutely prohibited,” Chief Judge Cale Bradford wrote for the appellate court.

Upon finding that obtaining a state-issued license is the only way to legally operate a waste transfer station in the Owen County Jurisdictional Area and that applying for a variance would change nothing, the appellate court had little trouble concluding that the county’s refusal to issue the requested document was not in accordance with the clear provisions of subsection 3.5.

It likewise concluded that the refusal also qualifies as arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.

“We can conceive of no legal justification for refusing to issue a document that does nothing more than accurately state the law. Moreover, Monster Trash has clearly shown prejudice resulting from the refusal, as it is entirely possible that the County’s refusal is the only thing keeping Monster Trash from obtaining their State-issued license at this point,” the appellate court wrote.

It therefore reversed and remanded with instructions to, within 30 days of the certification of its memorandum decision, “order the BZA to issue a document to IDEM and/or Monster Trash confirming that zoning requirements are not required for the location of a solid waste transfer station on the Property.”

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