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Simstad v. Scheub

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana

November 25, 2014

Thomas N. Simstad and Marla K. Simstad, Plaintiffs,
v.
Gerald Scheub et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN, District Judge.

Plaintiffs, Thomas N. Simstad and Marla K. Simstad, are real estate developers who allege that Defendants injured their property interest by failing to timely approve their proposed subdivision plans. Defendants were members of the Lake County Advisory Planning Commission (LCAPC), which sets land development policy for Defendant Lake County, Indiana. Both parties filed motions in limine which the Court now addresses.[1] Before addressing the motions, the Court will recount the lengthy and somewhat convoluted background of this case to provide context.

A. Background

In 2003, Plaintiffs acquired approximately thirty-eight acres of real property in an unincorporated area of Lake County, which they intended to develop into the Deer Ridge South Subdivision (Deer Ridge). State law and local ordinance require all land developers to submit a primary plat, or subdivision plan, for approval. Land advisory committees, like the LCAPC, are bound by Indiana state law to approve a plat if it meets the applicable ordinance guidelines.

On November 30, 2004, Plaintiffs submitted their first Deer Ridge primary plat to the LCAPC. Defendants denied this primary plat and required the Plaintiffs to make numerous changes to their proposed plan. Defendants required the Plaintiffs to: (1) change the location of the entrance, (2) reduce the number of lots to lower the property density, (3) apply for an irregular lot waiver; (4) change the layout of one particular lot, (5) buy property adjacent to DEER RIDGE, and (6) install additional lanes in an adjoining road. Plaintiffs assert that Defendants denied this primary plat even though they knew Plaintiffs' proposal satisfied all applicable LCAPC ordinances.

In April 2005, Plaintiffs submitted their second primary plat, which incorporated some, but not all, of the revisions Defendants requested. Defendants were not satisfied with the revised plat because Plaintiffs failed to make all of the requested changes or submit the required waivers. Specifically, Defendants said that Plaintiffs must submit waiver requests for irregular lots and only having one subdivision entry point. Additionally, the Defendants relayed to Plaintiffs that the number of required waivers led them to believe a subdivision may not be the best use of the property. On May 19, 2005, Defendants deferred the decision on this proposed plat.

In August 2005, the Plaintiffs submitted their third primary plat for the Deer Ridge. Defendants again expressed doubts over whether the plat could satisfy all of the LCAPC ordinances. As a result of these doubts, the third plat was removed from the October 2005, LCAPC meeting agenda. Defendants again expressed their doubts on the feasibility of the third primary plat in November 2005. Defendants were concerned about nearby wetlands and informed Plaintiff that the third primary plat was denied for failing to comply with the LCAPC ordinance. Defendants cited seven reasons for this denial. Specifically, Defendants found that Plaintiffs failed to make the following required changes:

1) Extend lot lines on Lots 2 through 10;
2) Change the depth and width ratio to 3.5:1;
3) Receive approval from the LCAPC for an alternative proposal;
4) Improve the other side of Clark Street, which the Plaintiffs did not own;
5) Request a waiver from an ordinance requirement;
6) Satisfy traffic and safety concerns regarding the health and welfare of adjoining property owners; and
7) Design their plat lot size consistently with lots in the surrounding area, which was significant due to problems in the area with ...

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