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February 11, 2014

Area Plan, subdivision win court skirmish vs. Cobblestone

Larger court battle looms in wall war

TERRE HAUTE — The Vigo County Area Plan Commission and Viscaya Point subdivision – who are allied parties in a lawsuit against the owners of the Cobblestone Crossings property development – won a court victory Tuesday, but a much larger legal fight continues.

Judge John Roach denied a motion by Southern Indiana Investments Co. Three LLC, which owns Cobblestone, that would have limited the official record of past Area Plan Commission meetings that the court could consider in ruling in the case.

The judge found that the plan commission used information from a larger number of meetings when it ordered in October that Cobblestone construct an 8-foot wall as a buffer between the development and the Viscaya Point neighborhood. As a result, he denied Cobblestone’s motion to limit the scope of the official record before the court.

In the larger case, Cobblestone, through Southern Indiana Investments, is arguing that the Area Plan Commission overstepped its authority when it ordered a wall constructed between Cobblestone and Viscaya Point.

The commission is arguing it had that authority.

In October, the Area Plan Commission, on a voice vote, approved a replatting for Cobblestone to allow further development near Viscaya Point. However, at the meeting, the commissioners added a condition that Cobblestone extend an existing buffer wall to its south border along Viscaya Point. A few days later, Southern Indiana Investments filed suit in Vigo County Division 1 court contesting the plan commission’s decision.

Later, Viscaya Point, through its homeowners association and Stacy Gough, a real estate professional, sought to join the case an “intervenor.” In December, over objections from Southern Indiana Investments, Roach granted Viscaya that role. An “intervenor” is a third party to a lawsuit that has a material interest in its outcome.

The plan commission, a 14-member, volunteer body, approved a planned unit development (PUD) for Cobblestone in 2007. A PUD gives flexibility to developers to make changes in their plans as a project moves along. Those plans did change over the years, calling for construction of more apartment buildings than originally planned in place of condominiums and single-family homes.

Residents of the Woodgate and Viscaya Point neighborhoods, which border Cobblestone on three sides, objected to the two-story apartments being constructed near their backyards and demanded Cobblestone construct a wall as a buffer between their homes and the apartments.

Terre Haute attorney James McDonald is acting as counsel for Viscaya, while attorney Joe Etling is acting in his capacity as attorney for the Area Plan Commission. Southern Indiana Investments is being represented by Thomas Bledsoe, an attorney with Frost Brown Todd, an Indianapolis law firm. Bledsoe was joined at Tuesday’s hearing by Jimm Nidlinger, a principal with Southern Indiana Investments.

Roach asked both sides in the case to submit briefs for his review. A final hearing date was set for 11 a.m. on June 20 in Division 1.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com

 

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