Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Supreme Court won't hear appeal against new Porter hospital

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The Indiana Supreme Court has decided not to hear the Liberty Landowners Association’s appeal against the rezoning for the new Porter hospital at Ind. 49 and U.S. 6.

The Supreme Court has let stand the decision of the Indiana Court of Appeals, which agreed with a lower Porter County court ruling that the Liberty Landowners do not have legal standing to argue against the rezoning for the new hospital. The Supreme Court made its decision last month.

Martin Lucas, attorney for the Liberty Landowners, said whenever there is an attempt to transfer a case to the state’s highest court, the “odds are always against you” since the court tends not to hear the vast majority of possible appeals. He said, however, that he believes the landowners raised valid points that deserved to be heard in court.

The Porter County Commissioners and Council unanimously sold the county-owned Porter Memorial Hospital in 2007, with the goal of getting a new hospital built with all-private rooms. The hospital’s new owner, Community Health Systems, eventually selected the 104-acre parcel at the northwest corner of Ind. 49 and U.S. 6 for its new hospital campus.

The commissioners approved the Institutional rezoning needed for the new hospital on a 2-1 vote, and the Liberty Landowners sued. The citizens group argued that under the county’s set of zoning rules known as the Unified Development Ordinance, residential property and Institutional zoning are not compatible adjacent zones.

But a Porter County court ruled that the landowners lacked standing even to bring suit, since the group does not own property adjacent to, or nearby, the hospital site. The landowners appealed, saying that the issues raised by the rezoning were a public issue.

Lucas said the remedies for the Liberty Landowners are now exhausted at the state court level and that he is not aware of any future action planned by the group. Last fall, Porter hospital officials announced that the hospital closed on the sale of the property and that they expect to break ground this year on the project.

Lucas said he believes Indiana law should be changed so that citizens have more ability to challenge rezonings, saying that the current law is “unduly restrictive on citizens’ rights to question rezonings.”



Posted 2/4/2010




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