Town of Beverly Shores v. Bagnall, 64S03-9204-CV-322

Docket NºNo. 64S03-9204-CV-322
Citation590 N.E.2d 1059
Case DateApril 29, 1992
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

Page 1059

590 N.E.2d 1059
The TOWN OF BEVERLY SHORES, Indiana; Carol Ruzic, John F.
Keys, Robert J. Love, Karlis Zarins, and Ellen L. Firme, as
members of the Town Council of the Town of Beverly Shores;
the Board of Zoning Appeals of the Town of Beverly Shores,
Indiana; Robert W. Berglin, Jeffery B. Katz, John R.
Daraska, John Vaznellis, and Paul E. Kline, as members of
the Board of Zoning Appeals of the Town of Beverly Shores,
and Leon W. Marek, as the Building Commissioner of the Town
of Beverly Shores, Appellants (Respondents Below),
George C. BAGNALL and Ann H. Bagnall, Appellees (Petitioners Below).
No. 64S03-9204-CV-322.
Supreme Court of Indiana.
April 29, 1992.

Page 1060

Terry K. Hiestand, Chesterton, for appellants.

Barbara A. Young, Katharine E. Gerken, Hoeppner, Wagner & Evans, Valparaiso, for appellees.

SHEPARD, Chief Justice.

A town's board of zoning appeals denied a requested variance which would have permitted construction of a residence on the Indiana dunes. The trial court held that this denial was an unconstitutional taking. We hold that the denial was proper on grounds related to saving the dunes, and reverse.

I. Case History

Since 1968, George and Ann Bagnall have owned a vacant lot across the road from Lake Michigan in the Town of Beverly Shores. They desire to build a house on the land, but the lot does not conform to zoning requirements the town adopted in 1982. It is too narrow and too small. 1 In

Page 1061

addition, the Bagnalls' design runs contrary to a local ordinance enacted to preserve the unique sand dunes which grace Indiana's portion of the lakeshore. 2

After being denied a building permit, the Bagnalls sought a zoning variance from the Beverly Shores Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA). The board denied the permit. The Bagnalls petitioned for review in the Porter Superior Court pursuant to Ind.Code Sec. 36-7-4-1003 (West 1983). They prevailed; the trial court ordered the BZA to grant the Bagnalls' application for a variance. The town appealed the trial court's ruling pursuant to Ind.Code Sec. 36-7-4-1011 (West 1983). A divided Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's determination that denial of the variance constituted a taking of property, but remanded the case to the BZA for a decision as to whether the town would compensate the Bagnalls for the taking or grant the requested variance. Town of Beverly Shores v. Bagnall (1991), Ind.App., 570 N.E.2d 1363.

The town seeks transfer. Because we conclude the BZA's denial of the requested variance was lawful, we grant transfer, vacate the decision of the Court of Appeals, and reverse the judgment of the trial court.

II. Standard of Review

When an aggrieved party seeks relief in a trial court from an adverse administrative determination and attacks the evidentiary support of the board's findings, he bears the burden of demonstrating that the board's conclusions are "clearly erroneous." See Stewart v. Fort Wayne Community Schools (1990), Ind., 564 N.E.2d 274. The "substantial evidence" test discussed in Stewart was first set out by this Court in the related cases of Stiver v. State ex rel. Kent (1936), 211 Ind. 370, 1 N.E.2d 592, and Stiver v. State ex rel. Kent (1936), 211 Ind. 380, 1 N.E.2d 1006. In the second Stiver opinion, we summarized the standard as follows: "If the procedural requirements are followed, including the assignment of a legal cause ... and if there is substantial evidence presented which tends to support the legal cause, and if the hearing is, in fact, fair, the proceeding is lawful." 1 N.E.2d at 1007. We recently reaffirmed this standard of review in City of Indianapolis v. Hargis (1992), Ind., 588 N.E.2d 496, stating that a "reviewing court may vacate a board's decision only if the evidence, when viewed as a whole, demonstrates that the conclusions reached by the board are clearly erroneous." Id. at 498.

Such a standard naturally requires great deference toward the administrative board by the reviewing court when the petition challenges findings of fact or the application of the facts to the law. On the other hand, if the allegation is that the board committed an error of law, no such deference is afforded and reversal by the trial court is appropriate if error of law is demonstrated. See Boffo v. Boone Cty. Bd. of Zoning Appeals (1981), Ind.App., 421 N.E.2d 1119, 1125-26. Absent such illegality, the trial court may not substitute its judgment for that of the board. Id.

From this general standard of review, we have derived more particular rules applicable to cases involving zoning variances. In order to set aside the determination of a board which has denied a zoning variance, the reviewing court must find that each of the statutory prerequisites for variance has been established as a matter of law. Metropolitan Board of Zoning Appeals v. Standard Life Insurance Co. (1969), 145 Ind.App. 363, 251 N.E.2d 60, trans. denied (1970). "In other words, the evidence supporting each prerequisite must be such that no reasonable man could fail to accept that prerequisite as proved." Id. at 61.

Page 1062

On appeal, the losing party in the trial court likewise bears the burden of persuading the appellate court that the trial court's determination was erroneous. The town must persuade us that the board's determination was supported by substantial evidence and thus not clearly erroneous. See Hargis, 588 N.E.2d 496; Porter Co. Bd. of Zoning App. v. Bolde (1988), Ind.App., 530 N.E.2d 1212, 1215. The Bagnalls sought variances from three requirements in the local ordinance: minimum lot size, minimum width of lot, and minimum set-back. The board declined to grant the variances, providing three reasons: first, that granting the variances would be injurious to public health, safety, morals, and general welfare due to the inevitable damage to the existing topography; second, that these variances would cause substantial adverse effects on neighboring property; and third, that strict application of the standards would not constitute a hardship. 3 If the board's decision is correct on any of these grounds, its decision should be sustained.

III. Protection of Dune Topography

When determining whether to grant an application for a building permit, the Building Committee of Beverly Shores is directed by Section 810 of the town's zoning ordinance to consider the effect on dune topography. Section 810 embodies a policy requiring...

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  • Burrell v. Lake County Plan Com'n, 45A05-9209-CV-339
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    ...court is not required and reversal is appropriate if an error of law is demonstrated. Town of Beverly Shores v. Bagnall (1992), Ind., 590 N.E.2d 1059, In our review of the Burrells' claim that the Commission's findings are not supported by substantial evidence, we may vacate the decision of......
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    • Nature-Friendly Ordinances: Local Measures to Conserve Biodiversity
    • May 24, 2004
    ...Ass’n 1997). 23. Reed v. Rootstown Township Bd. of Zoning Appeals, 458 N.E.2d 940 (Ohio 1984). 24. Town of Beverly Shores v. Bagnall, 590 N.E.2d 1059 (Ind. 1992). 25. Cluster Zoning is discussed infra notes 45-48. 26. Joel S. Russell, A New Generation of Rural Land Use Laws , Zoning News , ......

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