COA upholds permanent injunction against brothers using property for trucking company

IL file photo

A permanent injunction preventing two brothers from using their property for their trucking business has been upheld, but the Court of Appeals of Indiana reversed the imposition of costs and fines in the case.

Rupinder Thind owns land in Muncie, which he uses for a trucking business and for storing vehicles. Manpreet Thind, Rupinder’s brother, had transferred the property to his brother in 2021, but before doing so had petitioned for a variance of use.

The petition was denied by the Board of Zoning Appeals in 2020. Manpreet was aware that if more than one semi-tractor and one trailer continued to be on the property, he would be in violation.

Then in July 2022, Delaware County’s administrative zoning officer, Tom Fouch, filed a complaint for preliminary and permanent injunction, alleging the county had adopted the Delaware County Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance. That meant Rupinder’s property was within an F Farming Zone and his business wasn’t allowed on the property.

According to the record, Manpreet said that he would like to continue using the land for trucks. He also said they used the space for parking but would like to add a small repair space for the trucks. Sometimes, he said, there were between 10 to 15 trucks on the property at once.

Rupinder also has a trucking company that hauls freight. Combined, the brothers have an estimated 32 trucks and more than 50 trailers with locations in California, Connecticut and New Jersey, and about 28 drivers.

The Delaware Circuit Court found Rupinder in violation of the zoning ordinance and enjoined him from using the property for business purposes like parking, servicing and inspecting vehicles and equipment. It also ordered him to be responsible for all costs and fines assessed and attributed against him.

Rupinder appealed the entry of a preliminary injunction and the order that he pay fines and costs. He argued that the vehicles are for work and are parked there between trips, never rising to the level of a business use. He also argued that the zoning ordinance doesn’t prohibit him from keeping multiple semi-trucks on the property for nonbusiness uses like customizing them as a hobby.

The COA affirmed the entry of summary judgment, finding, “(T)he County was required to show by a preponderance of the evidence a reasonable likelihood of success at trial and we consider the evidence only in the light most favorable to the judgment. Our review of the record does not leave us with a firm conviction that a mistake has been made. We cannot say that reversal of the court’s preliminary injunction is required.”

But the COA did reverse the fines and costs imposed on Rupinder, finding them premature.

“The court issued a preliminary injunction and not a final determination. Further, we note the County did not present evidence of the fines or penalties it wished to have levied against Thind,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote.

The case is Rupinder Thind v. Delaware County, Indiana, 22A-PL-2332.

Indiana Lawyer Editor Olivia Covington contributed to this report.

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