Judge rules in county, residents’ favor on special exception request

A special judge recently agreed with the Jackson County Board of Zoning Appeals that a lawsuit brought by a homeowners association should be dismissed because it was not filed in time and was incomplete.

Special Judge Roger L. Duvall dismissed the Lake and Forest Club of Brownstown’s request for judicial review of the board of zoning appeals’ decision to accept a special exception for a planned horse barn and arena.

The club filed a petition for judicial review Oct. 4, 2018, in Jackson Circuit Court in Brownstown. At that time, the petitioners had 30 days to file a certified copy of the board record of the zoning decision.

The club filed that record Nov. 29, 2018, 24 days after the Nov. 5 deadline.

State statute also requires the petition be verified by a person under oath and approved with the names of petitioners, mailing addresses, identify people who participated in hearings, demonstrate the need for judicial review and more.

The club’s petition did not include all of those items. The club could have amended that petition within 30 days of filing but did not, which was another reason Duvall cited for dismissing the suit on May 28.

Susan Bevers, attorney for the board of zoning appeals, raised the deadline issue and defects in the club’s petition in her motion to dismiss the case, which was filed Nov. 21, 2018.

“The court found that there is sufficient evidence within the record to warrant dismissal of the case,” Duvall wrote in his ruling.

Theresa Thompson and her mother, Beulah Hamilton, who also were named as defendants in the lawsuit, made a request for a special exception with the plan commission Aug. 21, 2018, to construct the facility. Thompson also is a resident of the club.

Hamilton and Thompson plan to build a home with a 60-by-90-foot horse barn and a 60-by-80-foot indoor riding arena for horses on 6.34 acres about 500 feet across from the club, which is just east of Brownstown.

The barn and arena, which would house four horses — two permanent and two temporarily — also would require Thompson and Hamilton to request an exemption if they ever wanted to have more than four horses. The property also will include a manure compost building, according to Thompson’s manure management plan submitted to the board.

That building is planned to be a 12-by-36-foot structure with walls 4 to 5 feet tall on a 20-by-36-foot concrete pad. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management requires structures to be 100 feet from watersheds.

The manure management plan expects the horses to produce 1,250 to 1,890 feet of manure each year, and it will be removed from the site along with horse bedding.

A public hearing was conducted Sept. 11, 2018, to seek statements from owners and opposition. The plan commission voted 5-0 to approve the exception, and the finding of fact decision was approved by the board of zoning appeals Oct. 9.

The petition for judicial review filed in circuit court by Seymour attorney Tom Lantz contended the board of zoning appeals did not allow the association enough time to seek an expert to testify at the Sept. 11 hearing. The plaintiffs also contend the board of zoning appeals didn’t follow county ordinances, should have considered the project a confined animal feeding operation and that it’s too close to residents and the lake.

On Nov. 23, Ann C. Coriden, a Columbus attorney representing Hamilton and Thompson, filed a motion similar to the board of zoning appeals’ request to dismiss the lawsuit.

In December 2017, the county adopted a new zoning ordinance in which all livestock in a residential zoning district must be approved per a special exception so the board has a chance to review drainage, manure management and the site plan as well as how many animals, site location and other issues, Building Commissioner Conner Barnette said.

Lantz could not be reached for comment.