Newman v. Spence, 64A04-8909-CV-412

Docket NºNo. 64A04-8909-CV-412
Citation565 N.E.2d 350
Case DateJanuary 17, 1991
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana

Page 350

565 N.E.2d 350
James NEWMAN, Alfred Putnam, Robert Martino, Ray Tittle,
Jr., and Donna Wilkes, as the Board of Zoning Appeals for
Dune Acres, Indiana; Delano Wilkes, Donald Koehler, and
Sharon Snyder, as the Board of Trustees of the Town of Dune
Acres, Indiana; and Mary Ann Putnam, Appellants (Defendants Below),
William A. SPENCE and Dee Gaynor Spence, Appellees (Plaintiffs Below).
No. 64A04-8909-CV-412.
Court of Appeals of Indiana,
Fourth District.
Jan. 17, 1991.

Duane W. Hartman, Blachly, Tabor, Bozik & Hartman, Valparaiso, for appellees.


Defendants-Appellants James Newman and others named in the caption as zoning appeals board members, Delano Wilkes and others likewise named as town board members, and Mary Ann Putnam (collectively, the Board), appeal the Porter Superior Court's judgment determining certain provisions of the Town of Dune Acres Zoning Ordinance were unconstitutional as they applied to the Spences' property.

We affirm.

The issues presented by this appeal are whether the trial court erred by

1. applying incorrect standards of review in the appeal taken from the Board of Zoning Appeals' (BZA) decision,

2. conducting a prohibited trial de novo,

3. entering irrelevant and incorrect conclusions of law which thus were void,

4. failing to dismiss the petition for writ of certiorari on res judicata grounds, and

5. making findings on constitutional grounds in this proceeding.

William Spence and his wife purchased a house and lot in Dune Acres which was bounded on two sides by Dune Acres town park land and on the North by Lake Michigan beach. The Spences' home was built in 1926 on Lot 200. They also own Lot 201 which adjoins Lot 200 on the South end of its Eastern border South of the town park land. Plaintiff's Exhibit 7 is reproduced below for clarity. The Spences in 1987 filed a petition for variance to permit the building of an addition to their house which would be closer to their lot line than permitted in the zoning ordinance. This petition was heard, denied, and was never appealed.

The Spences then filed another petition asking for substantially the same relief but containing "several new matters which were not presented in 1987." (R. 38). After hearing, the Board denied the Spences' second petition. The Spences then filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Porter Superior Court seeking review of the Board's decision.

The trial court reviewed the record, received additional evidence and exhibits, then entered judgment determining the sideyard setback requirements of the zoning ordinance "are unconstitutional and void as to [Spences'] Lot 200 only."

Page 353

The Board appeals. Further facts, as necessary, are included in the later portions of this opinion.

The granting of a variance by a board of zoning appeals is discretionary even though the petitioner may have satisfied the statutory criteria. Boffo v. Boone Cty. Bd. of Zoning Appeals (1981) Ind.App., 421 N.E.2d 1119, 1123. Thus, the trial court reviews the board's action as to whether or not under the board's findings of fact, it has abused its discretion by refusing to grant the variance request. City of East Chicago, Ind. v. Sinclair Refining Co., (1953), 232 Ind. 295, 111 N.E.2d 459, 463. In order to upset the board's determination when it has denied a variance, the reviewing court, after resolving all doubts respecting the evidence in favor of the board's decision, must find that each of the statutory prerequisites has been established as a matter of law, that is, "the evidence supporting each prerequisite must be such that no reasonable man could fail to accept that prerequisite as proved." Metropolitan Bd. of Zoning Appeals v. Standard Life Ins. Co., (1969) 145 Ind.App. 363, 251 N.E.2d 60, 61, trans. den'd. Those statutory prerequisites are:

(1) the approval will not be injurious to the public health, safety, morals, and general welfare of the community;

(2) the use and value of the area adjacent to the property included in the variance will not be affected in a substantially adverse manner;

(3) the need for the variance arises from some condition peculiar to the property involved;

(4) the strict application of the terms of the zoning ordinance will constitute an unnecessary hardship if applied to the property for which the variance is sought; and

(5) the approval does not interfere substantially with the comprehensive plan adopted under the 500 series [comprehensive plan provisions] of this chapter.

IC 36-7-4-918.4. A court may not substitute its decision for that of a board of zoning appeals. Habig v. Harker (1983), Ind.App., 447 N.E.2d 1114, 1116.

In reviewing the decision of a board of zoning appeals, this court and the trial court are bound by the same standard. Maxey v. Board of Zoning Appeals (1985), Ind.App., 480 N.E.2d 589, 592. However, zoning regulations cannot be imposed unless they bear a substantial relation to the public health, safety, morals, or general welfare. Board of Zoning Appeals of the Town of Meridian Hills v. Schulte (1961), 241 Ind. 339, 172 N.E.2d 39, 43; Board of Zoning Appeals of Decatur v. Decatur Indiana Company of Jehovah's Witnesses (1954), 233 Ind. 83, 117 N.E.2d 115, 118. If it should appear that the evidence upon which the board of zoning appeals acted was devoid of probative value, that the quantum of legitimate evidence was so proportionately meager as to lead to a conviction the board's finding does not rest on a rational basis, or that the result of the hearing must have been substantially influenced by improper considerations, the board's order will be set aside. Warren v. Indiana Telephone Co. (1940) 217 Ind. 93, 26 N.E.2d 399, 409; Fryer v. City of New Albany (1963), 135 Ind.App. 454, 194 N.E.2d 417, 420; Bd. of Zoning Appeals of City of Mishawaka v. School City of Mishawaka (1957) 127 Ind.App. 683, 145 N.E.2d 302, 305.

Unconstitutionality is illegality of the highest order. Jehovah's Witnesses, 117 N.E.2d at 117.

When reviewing the judgment of the trial court, we will not weigh the evidence but will look only to that evidence, and the reasonable inferences arising therefrom, which support the judgment. The trial court's judgment will be set aside only in instances where the evidence is without conflict and can lead to but one result, and the trial court in its judgment has reached an opposite conclusion. When the trial court has made special findings, as it was required to do here, we must affirm the judgment unless we are satisfied that those findings are clearly erroneous. Metropolitan Bd. of Zoning Appeals v. Sheehan Constr. Co. (1974), 160 Ind.App. 520, 313 N.E.2d 78, 82.

Page 354

The evidence before both the BZA and the trial court demonstrates the Spences' house was built on Lot 200, an 80 foot lot, and was 80 feet wide. As the board's minutes reveal, the house was

built in 1926 and runs virtually from lot line to lot line (thus an 80 foot house on an 80 foot lot, legal...

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    ...appropriate where the question is one of the constitutionality of the law as applied to the facts of a particular case. Newman v. Spence, 565 N.E.2d 350, 355 (Ind.App.1991); Metropolitan Board of Zoning Appeals of Marion County v. McDonald's Corp., 481 N.E.2d 141 (Ind.App. 1985) (Marion Sup......
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