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Monday, April 21, 2014

Ind. Decisions - Court of Appeals issues 1 today (and 5 NFP)

For publication opinions today (1):

In Old Utica School Preservation, Inc., Kenneth Morrison, Scott Sandefur, and Pamela Sandefur v. Utica Township, John Durbin, Utica Township Trustee, Jacobs Well, Inc., Kevin Williar, John Posey, et al. , a 12-page opinion, Judge Kirsch writes:

Old Utica School Preservation, Inc. (“Old Utica”), Kenneth Morrison, Scott Sandefur, and Pamela Sandefur (collectively, “the Citizens”) appeal the trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of Utica Township, John Durbin as Utica Township Trustee, Jacobs Well, Inc., Kevin Williar, John Posey, Anthony Glotzback, and Barbara Williar (collectively, “Jacobs Well”). The Citizens raise the following restated issue for our review: whether the trial court erred when it found that the Citizens did not have standing to seek declaratory judgment and granted summary judgment, dismissing the Citizens’ action. We reverse and remand. * * *

We note that, in determining that the Citizens did not have standing to bring this claim, the trial court only discussed whether the Citizens had standing as parties to the contract or as third-party beneficiaries. The trial court did not make any findings regarding the Citizens’ standing under the public standing doctrine, which the Citizens argued both in their response to the motion for summary judgment and in their motion to correct error. Where a trial court enters specific findings and conclusions, they offer insight into the rationale for the trial court’s judgment and facilitate appellate review, but are not binding upon this court. FLM, 973 N.E.2d at 1173. We will affirm upon any theory or basis supported by the designated materials. Id. We therefore proceed to determine if the Citizens have standing under the public standing doctrine. * * *

Applying the rulings in Cittadine and Berkshire, we conclude that the Citizens, and others residents of the township, have an interest in the proper administration of the School for park and recreation purposes. It is apparent that a public right, the enjoyment of the School for park and recreation purposes, is at issue because the statutory language in Indiana Code section 20-23-6-9(d) states that the school property is to be offered to the township as a gift for park and recreation purposes and that the deed shall state that the township is required to use the property for park and recreation purposes. We, therefore, conclude that the Citizens have standing to proceed with their claim under the public standing doctrine.

We note that the statutory language provides no guidance as to what townships are to do with the school property in situations such as Utica Township faced here in which it is no longer feasible to maintain the school property for park and recreation purposes. In adopting Indiana Code section 20-23-6-9, the legislature did not provide what should happen to school property when, or if, it is no longer used for park and recreation purposes in the future. It is unclear whether the property must be used for park and recreation purposes in perpetuity or if it reverts back to the school corporation when it is no longer used for those purposes or if the township can lease the property for uses that may or may not be exclusively for park and recreation purposes. We conclude only that the Citizens have standing to bring a claim under the public standing doctrine. In reaching this conclusion, we express no opinion on the issue whether the lease between Utica Township and Jacobs Well, Inc. complies with the statutory restriction on the use of the property for park and recreation purposes. We, therefore, reverse the trial court’s dismissal of the Citizens’ complaint and remand for further proceedings on their claims.

BAILEY, J., concurs.
FRIEDLANDER, J., concurs with separate opinion. [which reads in full]
I fully concur in the conclusion that the Citizens have standing, pursuant to the Public standing doctrine, to pursue their claim. I write separately to express my opinion that the final paragraph of the lead opinion constitutes dicta. For purposes of resolving the present appeal, we need go no further than the determination that the Citizens have standing. This is not to say, however, that I disagree with the sentiments expressed in the final paragraph. This case illustrates that the statutes enacted by our legislature fail to address certain situations and circumstances that might arise when disposing of school buildings. Although it is not relevant to our holding in the present case, I agree with my colleagues that these gaps merit the General Assembly’s attention. Subject to these comments, I fully concur in the lead opinion.

NFP civil opinions today (0):

NFP criminal opinions today (5):

James Clark v. State of Indiana (NFP)

Rodney S. Perry, Sr. v. State of Indiana (NFP)

Laura Jones v. State of Indiana (NFP)

Thomas D. Dillman v. State of Indiana (NFP)

Yansie G. Norment v. State of Indiana (NFP)

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 21, 2014 11:38 AM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions