PERU – The Indiana Supreme Court is set to hear arguments to determine whether it will make a ruling on a case that puts residents in a housing addition near Peru on the hook to repair six deteriorating dams that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix.
The move comes after residents in the Hidden Hills housing addition petitioned the court to overturn a ruling by the Indiana Court of Appeals, which determined the homeowners are fully responsible for dam maintenance.
That decision overturned a ruling issued last year by a Marion County judge that said Miami County was fully responsible for repairing the structures, since all six dams have roads running over them, which were accepted into the county road system.
Now, the Indiana Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments from both sides to determine whether it will take on the case and issue a ruling.
Mark Leeman, a Logansport-based attorney who represents some of the homeowners, said the fact the court is hearing arguments “is a good result and an important next step in getting the decision from the Court of Appeals reversed.”
Oral arguments will be conducted inside the Indiana Supreme Court at 10 a.m. on Nov. 12. If necessary, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the court may order the argument to be conducted remotely.
The court said in an order that arguments will be 40 minutes in length, with both sides getting 20 minutes each to make their case.
If the state supreme court doesn’t end up taking the case, homeowners are preparing a plan to fund the repairs of the dams.
Larry West, a Miami County commissioner who also owns property on one of the dams, said in a previous interview homeowners are looking at forming a conservancy district, which could tax residents who own property on the dams. The taxes would pay to fix the structures.
Russ Bellar, who developed the housing addition back in the 1990s, has also donated 11 lots in the subdivision to a new nonprofit organization called Hidden Hills Lake Preservation, and any profits made from the sale of the land will help pay for dam maintenance and repairs.
The need for those repairs was first announced in 2014 by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, which sent letters to more than 20 landowners saying they had failed to maintain the structures and keep them in safe condition. The letter was also sent to the Miami County Board of Commissioners. Since then, the property owners and the county have fought the decision.