From a press release submitted by Lindsae Gogulski of International Society of Primerus Law Firms in Grand Rapids, Mich.:
The outlook for the New Year just got a little brighter for 31 families in the Northern Estates subdivision located on the northwest side of Indianapolis. In the case of City of Indianapolis v. Christine Armour, decided on December 18, the Indiana Court of Appeals found that, due to a violation of the U.S. Constitution, the City of Indianapolis is required to pay back $8,968 to each of 30 households for a sewer assessment that they paid in 2005. An additional household will receive about half as much as a result of this decision. The City has also been ordered to pay interest and attorney’s fees to each of the homeowners.
In 2004, the City assessed each property owner $9,278 per parcel for a sanitary sewer project in the subdivision. The following year, the Indianapolis Board of Public Works decided to change the way it financed sewer projects and in doing so, adopted a policy which forgave 90% or more of the sewer assessments to the residents of Northern Estates who had elected to pay in installments over many years. However, the Board denied any forgiveness to those homeowners who had paid in one lump sum. As a result, the lump sum payers were out of pocket the full amount of $9,278 while many of their neighbors paid only $309 for exactly the same City service. In its opinion, the Court of Appeals concluded that this different treatment of similarly situated homeowners violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The Court of Appeals found that the City did not have an adequate reason to justify its different treatment of lump sum and installment payers. The court affirmed an order entered in December 2008 by Judge John Hanley of the Marion Superior Court requiring the City to equalize the burden by refunding to the lump sum payers the same amount that had been forgiven from the installment payers.
The homeowners were represented by Ron Waicukauski and Davy Eaglesfield of the firm Price Waicukauski & Riley, LLC.