COA rules for Tippecanoe School Corp. in expansion dispute with local landowners

A Tippecanoe County school corporation received a favorable ruling from the Indiana Court of Appeals on Monday in its bid to turn local farmland into a new middle school.

Following discussions on the need to expand for future student growth, the Tippecanoe School Corporation began searching for a new plot of land for relocating its middle school. Conversations ensued between TSC and landowners David P. Krause, Jane E. Krause and Philip C. Krause, who owned farmland in Tippecanoe County adjacent to the current elementary and middle schools.

The two groups began negotiations and exchanged “offers and … counteroffers” concerning the Krause land. But after TSC had been “long discussing plans and … intentions to … build [the] new Middle School and reconfigure the existing buildings,” conversations with the landowners stopped being productive. The TSC school board authorized a resolution ratifying a uniform property or easement offer for the real estate, but the landowners rejected it.

The school district then filed a complaint for condemnation of the real estate, alleging that TSC was in need of additional school buildings, facilities and related improvements for public school use, and that acquisition of the land would help meet that need, among other things. However, the landowners filed an objection to TSC’s complaint, arguing TSC’s need to acquire the land was remote and speculative.

The Tippecanoe Superior Court entered an order overruling the landowners’ objection, which the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed in Krause-Franzen Farms, Inc., David P. Krause, Jane E. Krause, and Philip C. Krause v. Tippecanoe School Corporation, 21A-PL-115.

The appellate court noted that, as opposed to the distinguishable facts in Country Estates, Inc. v. NIPSCO, 258 N.E.2d 54 (Ind. 1970), and its companion case, Meyer v. NIPSCO, 258 N.E.2d 57 (In. 1970), “it is apparent from a review of the evidence that the school corporation is attempting to appropriate the Real Estate to accomplish its educational purposes, not some future, speculative need,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote Monday.

“TSC is currently faced with capacity conditions, security concerns, transportation issues and aging instructional facilities. It cannot provide students in Klondike Middle School with the same educational opportunities of other students in the district, and Klondike Elementary School relies on the Middle School to provide its students with lunches,” Brown wrote.

“It is not unreasonable to infer that enrollment will continue to rise in the Klondike schools, exacerbating the need for the additional Middle School facility. Unlike the condemning authority in Country Estates and Meyer, TSC is not appropriating property because it might, someday, wish to use the property. Contrary to Landowners’ contentions, the evidence does not point solely to a conclusion that TSC has exceeded its authority,” the panel concluded.

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