HPC and NA vs. Bradford Realty: Yep. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.


Reporter Suddeath tackles the Indiana Court of Appeals ruling, and to me, it all goes back to childhood teachings: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Krafty John thinks otherwise, but that’s why we have lawyers for both sides.

Court sides with New Albany historic group; Bradford Realty should have sought approval for siding, according to ruling, by Daniel Suddeath (News and Tribune)

NEW ALBANY — The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a ruling that had backed Bradford Realty’s claims that the New Albany Historic Preservation Commission didn’t properly notify land owners of zoning restrictions.

With a little help from a friend, here’s my take on the Court of Appeals ruling. It favors the Historic Preservation Commission in three ways:

First, Bradford Realty’s “ignorance of the law” defense goes down in flames, and not a moment too soon for me. The ordinance’s notification features are deemed sufficient, and there is no violation of due process.

Second, vinyl siding is affirmed as a “conspicuous change,” one necessitating a Certificate of Appropriateness from the HPC. It bears noting that the intent of a COA is to ensure the use of methods that don’t damage the structure or compromise the district’s character. According to the HPC’s own ordinance, even an “inappropriate” COA could be approved by vote, as in a circumstance where the use of vinyl (or synthetic) siding would protect a decayed building. These forms of siding are not universally disallowed by default; the COA process is intended to determine their potential suitability, on a case by case basis.

Third, the court did not find inverse condemnation; in other words, the ordinance stating the HPC’s requirements can not be considered so stringent that it constitutes the government seizing Bradfrod’s property without compensation.

Here’s the ruling itself, in unbridled legalese.