While the debate over an erroneously-permitted commercial structure has officially come to a close, some loose ends are still being wrapped up by Betty and George Dotlich. The pair had valiantly fought tooth-and-nail over a commercial structure that had been permitted as a single-family residence, ultimately winning the appeal in the Starke Circuit Court under Special Judge Patrick Blankenship ruled that the Board of Zoning Appeals failed to follow proper procedure and made a permitting decision unsupported by substantial evidence.
Now, despite the judge ordering that the BZA pay $15,164 in court and attorney fees for the Dotliches, the pair approached the Starke County Commissioners at their meeting this week requesting reimbursement for $6000 in out-of-pocket expenses that they incurred during the legal dispute. Betty Dotlich told the commissioners that she brought it up at their meeting this week because the court-ordered reimbursement was approved and she felt this reimbursement should be approved alongside it.
Dotlich emphasized that the legal battle consumed their lives for over a year, causing a significant amount of stress in their neighborhood. She said the BZA “does whatever they want,” and said she would present an itemized list of expenses. George Dotlich told the commissioners that, had the building inspector actually abided by the ordinances and codes rather than interpreting them on the fly, he would not have had to spend a single nickel on the matter.
County Attorney Martin Lucas, however, said the expenses of litigation fall on the parties, and despite the judge made a special unprecedented exception in awarding compensation for legal expenses to the Dolitches, there are no grounds on which to reimburse the $6000 requested.
Commissioner Kathy Norem admitted that it was unfortunate that the legal ordeal had to occur for both parties, but there are changes taking place to the plan commission which are expected to filter down to the BZA. Norem offered her apologies for what the Dotliches endured, as well as to the other party who had just been complying to what they thought was a properly-issued permit.