Developer sues C.P. over big-box stores

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Developer sues C.P. over big-box stores

Postby Big Dog » Fri Mar 17, 2006 8:50 pm

This story ran on nwitimes.com on Friday, March 17, 2006

Developer sues C.P. over big-box stores

BY ALLISON FASHEK

CROWN POINT | A developer has filed suit against the city, accusing officials of enacting an ordinance controlling big-box development to prohibit a Wal-Mart from coming to Crown Point.

Lauth Property Group, LLC, and Crown Point Partners, LLC, which owns 56 acres at the southeast corner of Interstate 65 and U.S. 231, filed the complaint against the city and the Crown Point Plan Commission on March 8 in Lake Superior Court. Citing violations of the U.S. Constitution, the Indiana Constitution and conflicts with federal and state anti-trust laws, it seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction, declaratory judgment and damages.

The complaint also quotes Mayor Dan Klein saying in October that Crown Point expects "more than a Wal-Mart."

Klein issued a lengthy statement Thursday saying the city already has begun a vigorous defense and that Lauth and its development partners haven't been deprived of any rights.

"The city is right to give special attention to big-box stores," he said. "Cannibalizing big-box retail from a neighboring community along with their part-time minimum wage jobs is not supporting our vision. I believe we can do better."

Lauth's attorney, Alan Townsend, of Bose McKinney & Evans LLP in Indianapolis, couldn't be reached for comment.

According to the suit, after acquiring rights to develop the I-65 property, Lauth sought permission from the Plan Commission and the City Council to rezone it from industrial to B-3 business to build The Shoppes at East Point. Plans for more than 350,000 square feet of retail space included two anchors. After obtaining the rezone, in August Lauth filed to get site development plan approval from the Plan Commission.

But in September, the suit says, Building and Planning Director Curt Graves told Lauth the Plan Commission was deferring action to review I-65 corridor design guidelines, resolve the extension of Mississippi Street and review entrances to U.S. 231. About that time, the suit alleges, the Plan Commission changed its position on the development.

"Instead of reviewing the site plan application in a manner consistent with the site development standards, the Plan Commission determined that the site plan application was unacceptable because one of the anchor stores was going to be a Wal-Mart," the document says.

While deferring action, the city enacted an amendment to the Crown Point Code of Ordinances forcing developers wanting to build retail stores 75,000 square feet and larger in a business district to get a special use. Lauth's proposed anchor stores were 203,000 and 88,4000 square feet. The Plan Commission cited violation of the ordinance as a reason for denying Lauth's site plan.

Klein said the city has the right and authority to establish a special use in its business zones to regulate big-box stores and pointed out that Lauth has not applied for a special use for its proposed retail center.
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