By Ann Marie Shambaugh
A judge has mandated that the Zionsville Plan Commission approve a primary plat and development plan for a proposed Walmart along Michigan Road north of 106th Street.
The legal battle began in 2006, when the ZPC first denied Walmart’s petitions, citing traffic, crime and the fact that some of the site was in Hamilton County as concerns.
Walmart filed a lawsuit against the ZPC a month later, and a judge ruled in 2008 that “the Plan Commission erred in denying Wal-Mart’s Primary Plat and Development Plan on jurisdictional grounds” and remanded the case to the ZPC with instructions to review only the portions of the plan within Zionsville boundaries and determine if they comply with town ordinances.
When the ZPC took up the matter again in May 2008, commissioners used primarily the same reports and logic for denying the plans as they had in 2006, leading to Walmart filing a second lawsuit in June 2008.
Judge Steven R. Nation, a special judge for Boone Superior Court, ruled on May 27 that the ZPC’s actions – or lack thereof – after the first lawsuit were “arbitrary and capricious.”
“The Court finds substantial evidence demonstrates that the Plan Commission has willfully defied this Court’s 2008 remand order and acted in bad faith by not revisiting the matters that this Court remanded to the Plan Commission,” the recent ruling stated.
The 33-page ruling stated that the ZPC’s reasons for denying the petition were based on issues that Walmart had previously resolved, factors that were not governed by ordinance and a “demonstrably inaccurate statement” given in an affidavit.
The judge did not order the ZPC to pay Walmart’s attorney fees as the retailer had requested, stating that “the Court lacks such authority under the law in this circumstance.”
The ZPC held a closed meeting June 15 to discuss the matter. Commissioners are expected to address whether or not they will file an appeal at their regularly scheduled June 20 meeting.
“No action or determination has been made by the plan commission at this time,” Zionsville Mayor Tim Haak said.
Walmart officials did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.