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Allen County Plan Commission v. Olde Canal Place Association

Court of Appeals of Indiana

October 11, 2016

Allen County Plan Commission, et al. Appellants-Respondents,
v.
Olde Canal Place Association, et al. Appellees-Petitioners.

         Appeal from the Allen Superior Court Trial Court Cause No. 02D03-1408-PL-300 Honorable Stanley A. Levine, Judge

          Attorneys for Appellants Patrick R. Hess Brian C. Heck Fort Wayne, Indiana Robert W. Eherenman Andrew L. Teel Fort Wayne, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellees Cathleen M. Shrader Michael H. Michmerhuizen Fort Wayne, Indiana

          Altice, Judge

         Case Summary

         [¶1] MRK II, LLC and Max R. Kendall (collectively, MRK) and the Allen County Plan Commission (the Commission) appeal from the trial court's order granting Olde Canal Place Association and its members[1] (collectively, OCPA) relief from judgment under Ind. Trial Rule 60(B)(1). On appeal, MRK and the Commission argue that the trial court abused its discretion in granting relief because OCPA cannot establish a meritorious claim as required by T.R. 60(B)(1).

         [¶2] We reverse and remand with instructions.

         Facts & Procedural History

         [¶3] On June 4, 2014, MRK filed a petition to rezone a parcel of property located in Allen County from C2/Limited to Commercial to R3/Multiple Family Residential. At the same time, MRK also filed an application for approval of a primary development plan for the construction of a multi-family residential complex on the property. In conjunction with the development plan, MRK requested waivers of three applicable design and development standards, including the maximum height standard for primary buildings in an R3 district. The Commission held a public hearing on MRK's applications on July 10, 2014, at which OCPA appeared in opposition. On July 17, 2014, the Commission approved MRK's applications.

         [¶4] On August 18, 2014, OCPA filed a petition for judicial review challenging the Commission's decision. On September 16, 2014, OCPA filed a motion for extension of time to file the record of the proceedings before the Commission (the Record). The same day, the trial court granted the motion and extended the filing deadline to November 17, 2014. The November 17 deadline passed without OCPA filing the Record or requesting another extension of time.

         [¶5] On November 21, 2014, MRK filed a motion to dismiss due to OCPA's failure to timely file the Record. OCPA filed the Record on November 25, 2014, and MRK responded by filing a motion to strike. On December 8, 2014, OCPA filed their response to MRK's motion to dismiss, which also contained an alternative motion to set aside any prospective dismissal pursuant to T.R. 60(B)(1). At the same time, OCPA filed the affidavit of Robert Westfall, one of its attorneys. In the affidavit, Attorney Westfall explained that he "mistakenly thought that because the . . . Commission would be preparing the Record internally, it would also file same with the court."[2] Appellant's Appendix at 89.

         [¶6] On December 11, 2014, the trial court held a hearing on MRK's motion to dismiss. At the hearing, counsel for OCPA conceded that under existing case law, the trial court was required to dismiss the petition for judicial review due to the failure to timely file the Record, which the trial court did. After the dismissal, however, OCPA asked the trial court to set aside the dismissal under T.R. 60(B)(1). Specifically, OCPA argued that the failure to timely file the agency record was the result of mistake, and that OCPA had a meritorious claim because it believed the Commission's decision was arbitrary, capricious, and not supported by substantial evidence. MRK opposed the request, arguing that even if the dismissal was set aside, the case would have to be dismissed again because the trial court cannot accept a belatedly filed Record. Nevertheless, the trial court granted the motion to set aside the dismissal, and MRK renewed its motion to strike the Record. The trial court directed MRK to file an amended motion to strike within a week of the hearing. Instead of doing so, MRK filed its notice of appeal four days later.[3] This appeal ensued.

         Discussion & Decision

         [¶7] In their joint brief, MRK and the Commission argue that the trial court abused its discretion by granting OCPA's T.R. 60(B) motion for relief from judgment. T.R. 60(B) provides a mechanism by which a party may obtain relief from the entry of a final judgment. Laflamme v. Goodwin, 911 N.E.2d 660, 664 (Ind.Ct.App. 2009). "A motion made under T.R. 60(B) is addressed to the equitable discretion of the trial court, and we will reverse only upon an abuse of that discretion." Brimhall v. Brewster, 864 N.E.2d 1148, 1152-53 (Ind.Ct.App. 2007), trans. denied. An abuse of discretion occurs when the judgment is clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and inferences supporting the judgment. Breneman ...


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