Epworth Forest Administration Committee, Inc., Appellant-Defendant,
Gerry Lee Powell and Patricia Ann Powell, Appellees-Plaintiffs.
from the Kosciusko Circuit Court The Honorable Michael W.
Reed, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 43C01-1602-MI-47
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Matthew R. Shipman Bloom Gates Shipman
& Whiteleather, LLP Columbia City, Indiana
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES Stephen R. Snyder Randall L. Morgan
Snyder Morgan Federoff & Kuchmay LLP Syracuse, Indiana
of the Case
Epworth Forest Administration Committee, Inc.
("EFAC") appeals the trial court's judgment,
following a bench trial, for Gerry Lee Powell and Patricia
Ann Powell on the Powells' complaint against EFAC and
Robert Miller and Deborah Miller. This appeal arises from more
than twenty-six years of litigation in the Kosciusko Circuit
Court regarding rights of access to Webster Lake in Kosciusko
County. In this appeal, the Millers sought to have a second
boat lift added to their pier on Webster Lake. To accommodate
that desire, the Millers petitioned EFAC to remove the
Powells' pier on the lake. EFAC agreed to do so, and the
Powells filed suit and obtained injunctive relief before the
court entered a final judgment for the Powells. EFAC now
appeals that judgment and raises a single issue for our
review, namely, whether the trial court erred when it did not
accept EFAC's interpretation of prior orders of the
court. We affirm the court's judgment for the Powells.
and Procedural History
Webster Lake is a lake in the Epworth Forest subdivision in
Kosciusko County. Since 1991, rights of access to Webster
Lake by onshore and offshore property owners have been
litigated in the Kosciusko Circuit Court. Pursuant to various
court orders in that litigation, EFAC is now
empowered to administer, subject to certain
restrictions, the respective rights of access held by onshore
and offshore property owners. In 1994, the court entered an
order that established the lakeshore rights of the onshore
and offshore property owners.
Pursuant to a November 2007 order of the court:
As a means of enforcing this Court's prior orders in this
case, any party alleging that [EFAC] has acted or failed to
act in violation of this Court's [1994 judgment] shall
file a separate lawsuit alleging that [EFAC] has acted or
failed to act in violation of this Court's [1994
judgment] . . . . The action or decision of [EFAC] will not
be reversed unless such action or decision is arbitrary,
unreasonable[, ] or capricious.
Ex., Tr. Vol. 3 at 30.
In January of 2014, the trial court approved onshore and
offshore rights of access to Webster Lake and, in particular,
open shoreline and pier-assigned shoreline for each onshore
and offshore owner. EFAC also sought to have the trial court
adopt certain regulations EFAC had proposed. In its order on
that request, the court stated in relevant part as follows:
Although not mandated by the Court, the regulations as
adopted and applied by [EFAC] should strive to:
a) Allow/provide for a five (5) foot clearance on both sides
[for a total of ten (10) feet] of the dividing line between
pier sites so that a ten (10) foot buffer zone may exist
between all facilities and equipment utilized on the pier
b) Burden any one on-shore owner with only one (1) off- shore
Id. at 43 (brackets in original). And the court
adopted the following rules proposed by EFAC:
Pier Assignment [is defined as a]n allotted space along the
Lake Webster shoreline that is assigned to an owner. All
piers are privately owned and shall not be accessed without
the permission of the owner.
* * *
2. ALLOWABLE ...