Chesterton Tribune

BH BZA hires Hurley to defend itself against Town Council

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During a special meeting Thursday, the Burns Harbor Board of Zoning Appeals hired attorney Brian Hurley of Valparaiso to represent the BZA in pending litigation.

He will defend the board in an appeal brought by the Burns Harbor Town Council and others challenging the BZA’s 3-2 Aug. 24 decision allowing a 250 semi-truck parking lot expansion of CR England’s Midwest regional truck terminal on Tech Drive.

Hurley formerly served as the attorney for both the Porter County Plan Commission and the county Board of Zoning Appeals. He also successfully appealed on behalf of C&C Development when earlier this year a Porter Superior Court overturned the Town of Porter Plan Commission’s 2008 denial of a C&C replat of a portion of Hunters Glen subdivision.

The firm of Harris, Welsh and Lukmann represents the Town of Burns Harbor including the council and BZA but has recused itself from participating in the England appeal.

The Town Council last month hired Ice Miller LLP, one of the most prominent law firms in the state, for the BZA appeal but on Wednesday the council declined to state how much Ice Miller is being paid. The council agreed to appropriate an initial $5,000 for BZA legal fees tied to the appeal.

Thursday, BZA president Terry Swanson said the lawyers he talked to generally quoted an approximately $200 per hour fee, and that Hurley spent more time than others discussing the BZA’s situation with him.

BZA member Gordon McCormick said member Amy Zehner, who was absent, had inquired about hiring Baker & Daniels law firm at a range of $185 to $390 per hour. Also well-known in Indiana, the firm has offices in Indianapolis, Chicago, Washington D.C., Fort Wayne, South Bend and Beijing.

Swanson stressed the BZA has a Monday deadline to show cause why it shouldn’t turn over its record of the England petition to Porter Superior Court Judge Mary Harper for judicial review. BZA secretary Tyler DeMar said he has the documentation ready if directed to provide it.

Swanson said for the BZA’s part the question appears to be, “Did we follow procedure or not follow procedure?”

Ice Miller alleges England should have sought a rezoning, not a special exception. England attorney Terry Hiestand has said no one from the town advised them to do that and the special exception was heard.

Swanson said the BZA needs legal representation now and if at some point the board wishes to engage another attorney, it can be considered at that time.

The vote Thursday to hire Hurley was 3-0 with member Bernie Poparad joining Swanson and McCormick. Member Gene Weibl was absent in addition to Zehner.


Posted 10/15/2010