Posted by: Patricia Salkin | April 18, 2017

IN Appeals Court Remands Matter to ZBA to Make Specific Findings of Fact in Variance Denial

Riverside Meadows I, LLC was owned by Fouzia Shahnawaz, and the property she owned was managed by her husband, Shawn Zamir. The property was constructed in the 1920s as a convent and had fourteen bedrooms plus some common areas. At the time relevant to this appeal, Riverside had rented out the rooms in this building to eleven adults. Riverside provided meals, laundry service, and light housekeeping for the residents. The property was zoned as M-1 (low density multifamily residential). As such, the City of Jeffersonville notified Riverside that its use of the Property was in violation of the City’s zoning ordinances. Riverside filed an application for a use variance with the BZA, seeking to operate the Property as a “rooming house.” The City of Jeffersonville’s Board of Zoning Appeals members denied Riverside’s request for a variance, and the Clark Circuit Court denied Riverside’s petition for judicial review of the decision of the BZA.
On appeal, Riverside claimed that the findings of fact entered by the BZA were merely recitations of the relevant statutory language and therefore insufficient. The BZA argued that the statute merely required “written findings of fact,” not specific written findings of fact, and that its bare-bones “findings” satisfied this requirement. In the portion of the form used by the BZA to record its findings, the space left for specific findings was left blank. Accordingly, the court found that the BZA’s “findings” were nothing of the sort required to permit adequate judicial review of the BZA’s decisions. Additionally, there was no provision in the BZA’s “findings” that incorporated the minutes of the BZA’s hearing on this matter. While some of the minutes contained summaries of the testimonies and arguments of the parties for and against Riverside’s request, the court found that this was insufficient to permit judicial review of the reasons for the BZA’s ultimate decision. Thus, the court concluded that the findings entered by the BZA in the present case were insufficient to permit adequate judicial review of BZA’s decisions. The court therefore reversed the judgment of the trial court and remanded the case to the BZA with instructions to enter specific findings.
Riverside Meadows I, LLC v City of Jeffersonville, Indiana Board of Zoning Appeals, 2017 WL 1179578 (IN. App. 3/30/017)

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