Indiana Court of Appeals Rules for Developer in Dispute Over Project in Historic District

By Matt Derringer, June 13, 2018

 Real estate developers commonly encounter and overcome all sorts of obstacles when proposing new construction in Indiana. Construction plans, zoning, platting and actually acquiring the real estate can all pose challenges. However, even when these challenges are met, some developers must jump an extra hurdle. For example, a developer who proposed a mixed-use project in Marion County ran into opposition from neighboring homeowners and had to press his case all the way to the Court of Appeals.

A little over two years ago, the developer submitted a proposal to the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission (IHPC) to construct a five-story building on the near northeast side of Indianapolis near the Lockerbie Glove Factory Town Homes. The developer proposed that the building be used for retail space, apartments and parking spaces, as well as a gallery and a roof deck. However, neighboring homeowners objected to the proposed development, claiming that a previous covenant on the real estate prohibited anything but residential use for the parcel, as well as claiming that proposed development violated historic protections for the area and would result in increased traffic and noise.

Despite the homeowners’ objection, the staff of the IHPC recommended approval of the proposed project, and it was subsequently approved by the Commission. However, that was not the end of the matter. The homeowners sought judicial review of the Commission’s decision. Fortunately for the developer, the trial court dismissed the homeowners’ petition.

The homeowners’ last attempt to stop the development in the historic district was to file an appeal of the trial court’s decision. However, the lower court decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals (COA) in a unanimous decision. The COA deferred to the IHPC’s decision on the matter, stating that there is a presumption that such an administrative body will act properly and without bias when discharging its duties. For the specific project at issue, the COA found that the proposed parking portion of the project did not violate the previous covenant on the real estate and that the mixed residential and commercial use of the real estate would not violate the historic protections in place at the location.


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