By Kristy Deer | Daily Reporter
NEW PALESTINE — A businessman has racked up over $24,000 in fines due to zoning violations, and town officials say they’ve had enough. The town’s planning commission is moving forward with litigation to collect.
The property that’s been the focus of the dispute, located just south of U.S. 52 and County Road 600W, is owned by Trevor Lloyd-Jones, who town officials said hauled in dirt and excavated the area without submitting plans or getting approval from town officials.
During a recent planning commission meeting, town manager Jim Robinson said he approached Lloyd-Jones about the issue in July, when he saw Lloyd-Jones bringing at least 100 loads of dirt onto the property without a permit or town permission.
Robinson said Lloyd-Jones kicked him off of the property when he tried to stop the work and asked about the plans for the dirt and the land.
“My biggest concern is the topography and drainage issues he’s created there by adding that dirt,” Robinson said.
Robinson presented the planning commission with letters and information he sent Lloyd-Jones as far back as July letting him know he’s in violation of the zoning ordinance.
Lloyd-Jones did finally come into town hall on Oct. 8, Robinson said, and gave town officials a plan for the property, but Robinson noted the plans only detailed adding a stockpile of dirt and nothing concrete for the area.
“We have no idea how long he plans to keep that dirt there,” Robinson said. “It could sit there for five years for all we know.”
Lloyd-Jones told the Daily Reporter he’d eventually like to create a riverfront development area for the town on the property and has talked with at least one town official about the project, but he has not submitted plans for approval. (New Palestine and other municipalities have created the special riverfront districts as a way of enticing economic development.)
Lloyd-Jones noted the only way he would pay any zoning fines, which grow by $300 daily, is if ordered to do so by a judge.
“I guess we’ll wait for the legal process,” Lloyd-Jones said.
Town officials want Lloyd-Jones to submit proper plans right away and pay the fines. Still, Robinson noted any move Lloyd-Jones makes now does not take away the fact he owes over $24,000.
The fines reached $24,450 as of Wednesday, Oct. 20 the day of the planning commission meeting. The board passed a measure saying it will sue Lloyd-Jones for the maximum about of money he owes and make him move the dirt until he submits an official plan for the development of the land.
“A daily fine of $300 should continue until there is a remedy or an approved solution,” planning commission and town council president Bill Niemier said.
Lloyd-Jones did not submit an application, which must have official plans for the property to get a permit to even stockpile the dirt, until Oct. 8, Robinson said. Because the plans were incomplete, Robinson has not approved the application.
“It’s a very tricky area he’s working with there because of the flooding,” Robinson said.
Town officials and Lloyd-Jones will need to work with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and get approval from other state governing bodies before they can consider giving him a proper permit.
“By adding that dirt, he’s gone and gotten the cart before the horse,” Robinson said.