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Old Utica Sch. Pres., Inc. v. Utica Twp.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

April 21, 2014

OLD UTICA SCHOOL PRESERVATION, INC., KENNETH MORRISON, SCOTT SANDEFUR, and PAMELA SANDEFUR, Appellants-Plaintiffs,
v.
UTICA TOWNSHIP, JOHN DURBIN, Utica Township Trustee, JACOBS WELL, INC., KEVIN WILLIAR, JOHN POSEY, ANTHONY GLOTZBACK, and BARBARA WILLIAR, Appellees-Defendants

APPEAL FROM THE CLARK CIRCUIT COURT. The Honorable Glenn G. Hancock, Special Judge. Cause No. 10C04-1210-PL-123.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS: DUSTIN T. WHITE, White Law Practice, Jeffersonville, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: A. DAVID HUTSON, Hutson Legal, Jeffersonville, Indiana; DAVID A. LEWIS, Jeffersonville, Indiana.

KIRSCH, Judge. BAILEY, J., concurs. FRIEDLANDER, J., concurs with separate opinion.

OPINION

Page 328

KIRSCH, Judge

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.

Page 329

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On February 12, 2002, the Greater Clark County Schools Corporation (" GCCSC" ) conveyed the former Utica Elementary School (" the School" ), located in Jeffersonville, Indiana, to Utica Township via quitclaim deed, which was recorded by the Clark County Recorder on February 15, 2002. The quitclaim deed contained language stating that the School " shall be used by Utica Township solely[1] for park and recreation purposes," which was written to comply with Indiana Code section 20-4-5-8, now re-codified to Indiana Code section 20-23-6-9. Appellants' App . at 71.

After Utica Township took ownership of the School, it was open to the public to use and was available for basketball and community gatherings. Utica Township attempted to maintain the School for park and recreation purposes, but it did not have sufficient funds to continue to do so, and the School fell into a state of disrepair. Id. at 82-83. Windows and doors were broken, vandals broke into the building, and damage was done to the interior of the building. Id. at 83. To try to protect the School from further damage, the building was boarded up, but this did not prevent further vandalism and damage. Id. Utica Township was paying approximately $20,000 per year to insure, secure, and maintain the School in a minimal way. Id.

On June 17, 2011, Jacobs Well, Inc., an Indiana non-profit corporation, organized for educational, literary, scientific, religious, or charitable purposes, leased the School from Utica Township. It thereafter invested approximately $300,000 in renovations on the School. The lease required Jacobs Well, Inc. to allow Utica Township access to the gym and cafeteria for the purposes of having community events in the School with fifteen days' notice. Id. at 74. Jacobs Well, Inc. made a commitment to Utica Township that it would open the building for organized, supervised, recreational activities, and for community functions. Id. at 78, 81, 83. GCCSC was aware of the manner in which Jacobs Well, Inc. intended to use the School, had no objection to such uses, and had not made any effort to reclaim or enforce any interest it has in the property. Id. at 59-60, 62, 84.

Kenneth Morrison, Scott Sandefur, and Pamela Sandefur own land adjacent to the School. Old Utica School Preservation, Inc. is a non-profit corporation with the stated purpose " to preserve the [School's] historic nature and to find ways in which to use the [S]chool for the benefit of the public." Id. at 126. On October 25, 2012, the Citizens filed a complaint for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief, contending that Jacobs Well was planning to use the School for purposes other than park and recreation purposes, namely for a residence and " temporary housing or a halfway house for criminal offenders." Id. at 12. On December 7, 2012, Jacobs Well filed a motion for summary judgment, contending that the Citizens did not have standing to bring the complaint against Jacobs Well. Finding that the Citizens did not have standing, ...


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