Grovertown Structure Still a Court Issue; Hearing Set For Sept. 17

 A structure in rural Grovertown is still a heated issue, as Walter and Julia Ford have been ordered to appear in Pulaski Superior Court in Winamac to argue why they should not be held in contempt of court for not removing a structure that they had been ordered to remove before June 1. Back in May, the Starke County Board of Zoning Appeals voted to uphold a ruling made by Special Judge Patrick Blankenship that required Julia Ford to tear down a building that has been the subject of public scrutiny and a lawsuit. They extended the deadline date from June 1 to June 15 and adjourned the meeting.

George and Betty Dotlich first went to the Board of Zoning Appeals in 2012 to dispute the zoning of a structure placed on a property in the county by Julia Ford. They claimed the structure was permitted as a single-family residence and it was a commercial structure. In 2013, Judge Blankenship made a judgment that the Starke County Board of Zoning Appeals failed to follow proper procedure, allowed ex parte communication, and made a decision unsupported by substantial evidence in the case between Betty and George Dotlich and Julia Ford.

The case involved the fact that Julia Ford of Starke County purchased a used manufactured commercial office structure that had been certified in Illinois and applied for a permit to convert it to a single-family residence, which the BZA approved on Jan. 11, 2012.

The ruling concluded that the BZA failed to follow proper procedure by not allowing public comment at the subsequent appeal hearings. The judge found that the BZA also failed to follow procedure in dealing with communication by the parties prior to the hearing. Blankenship also ordered that the BZA pay $15,164 in court costs for the case.

In a meeting on May 29, the BZA agreed to adopt Judge Blankenship’s order that required Ford to tear down the structure. Board Chairman Don White announced that they had reviewed evidence that Ford brought forth and the board adopted the judge’s order.

Since then, however, the structure has yet to be removed, and BZA Attorney Martin Bedrock has filed an affidavit in support of rule to show cause. The Fords must now answer why they should not be held in contempt of court for failing to remove the structure from the Grovertown property on which it sits. They will appear in court on Sept. 17 at 9:30 p.m. ET.