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.”