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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Ind. Decisions - "Court backs dismissal of Flying J plaza suit"

Reporting today on yesterday's 7th Circuit decision in the case of Flying J Inc. v. City of New Haven, Rebecca S. Green of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette writes:

The U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a convenience store chain against the city of New Haven.

Just more than a year ago, attorneys for the Utah-based Flying J Inc. sued New Haven in U.S. District Court, alleging the city had engaged in an orchestrated campaign to keep the company from building a 17-acre travel plaza on the northeast corner of Minnich Road and Indiana 930.

The company bought the 53-acre property just west of Interstate 469 and intended to build a Flying J Travel Plaza, as well as other retail, commercial and professional services – including a convenience store, country market store, 24-hour restaurant, fast-food court, fuel pumps, restrooms and 24-hour parking for up to 11 recreational vehicles and 187 trucks.

When the company bought the property, the land was zoned C-1 for commercial use under New Haven’s zoning ordinance. As the process of developing the site progressed, Brian Yoh, New Haven city planning director, told Flying J officials he believed some of the proposed uses for the land were not permitted under the zoning ordinance, according to court documents. Flying J officials allege city officials extended the appeals process as long as possible while simultaneously working to amend the text of the city’s zoning ordinance to prevent the proposed use of the property, according to court documents.

In May 2005, the Board of Zoning Appeals backed Yoh. Flying J officials then appealed to Allen Circuit Court. Allen Circuit Judge Thomas Felts ruled in September 2005 that some of Flying J’s plans for the site were not specifically permitted in the C-1 commercial zoning, such as servicing tractor-trailer rigs and overnight parking. The Indiana Court of Appeals overturned Felts’ ruling in October 2006, according to court documents.

In the federal lawsuit, the company accuses the city of changing the wording of the ordinance and not telling Flying J about upcoming public hearings or rulings about the property, according to court documents. In his ruling, District Chief Judge Robert L. Miller Jr. said that while Flying J argued the ordinance was passed in retaliation for the company’s state court victory, the city had a rational reason for passing the amended ordinance. He then granted the city’s motion to have the case dismissed.

In a ruling issued Friday, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago issued a ruling upholding Miller’s dismissal.

Writing for the panel, Circuit Judge William J. Bauer said Flying J failed to overcome the presumption that New Haven acted rationally when it changed the ordinance.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 6, 2008 03:02 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions