Starke County Farmers Influenced by Recent Appellate Court Decision

 A Starke county dispute over who constructs a fence between agriculturally zoned land has been given a review by an Indiana Appellate Court.

According to a summary of the case, John Belork, a land owner in Davis Township in Starke County, ranches cattle on his property. The landowners to Belork’s East and South use their land to farm grain.

Belork was interested in constructing and repairing a fence along the property lines to keep his cattle enclosed. He requested of Davis Township Trustee Robin Latimer to invoke Indiana’s right-hand rule – which can be used to require the neighbors to construct the right-most half of a fence between the two properties. Due to the neighboring property owners receiving no perceived benefit from the fence, that request was denied.

In June of 2014, Belork filed a petition for a Writ of Mandamus with Latimer as the respondent. Some time later, the landowner to Belork’s South, identified as DMK&H, asked to be added as a respondent.

In February of this year, the trial court heard arguments in the case. Exactly which landowner is responsible for constructing the fence was under contention. Attorneys for the respondents argued that their clients do not use the fence for grain farming, citing several other reasons such as inaccessibility due to tree overgrowth.

Under questioning, Belork was asked whether the neighboring landowners should construct a portion of the fence to protect themselves from his cattle that may venture outside his property line. Belork responded “yes.” The trial court denied Belork’s petition. The case, however, was taken to an Appellate Court.

Reviewing the facts of the case, and an analysis of the Indiana General Assembly’s intent behind the definition of a partition fence, led the Appellate Court to re-affirm the trial court’s decision this month.