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Design Standards Spark Suit

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

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An Indiana city’s attempt at standardizing architecture within its limits has sparked a lawsuit—the outcome of which could have far-reaching implications, reports say.

Last September, the City of Greenwood, IN, adopted a strict ordinance aimed at increasing the quality of life for its nearly 54,000 residents and improving the look and value of its residential architecture, according to local reports. Greenwood sits about 14 miles south of Indianapolis.

Last month, a major home builder in the state, joined by two home associations, filed suit, arguing that the ordinance is “unnecessary” and will add $15,000 to $30,000 onto home prices, The Indianapolis Star reported.

home under construction
© / miflippo

The new standards could increase the cost of homes by as much as $30,000, driving potential homebuyers away, the lawsuit alleges.

The city’s standard calls for the use of more brick, steeper multi-tiered roofs, and garages, for example.

The Arguments

Arbor Homes LLC, the Indiana Builders Association and the Builders Association of Greater Indianapolis argue that local governments should have narrowly defined authority to regulate architecture and are asking the Johnson County Superior Court to throw out the new standards.

They further claim that Indiana law only allows cities to enact architectural standards to preserve the historic or architectural heritage of a community.

In a press release, BAGI states the "right to build" is recognized as a property right under certain circumstances, adding, "Greenwood's imposition of new rules and regulations by ordinance deprives property owners of their constitutional protected rights, without due process."

“It is problematic because this is increasing the cost of the homes and they are unable to meet the demand for their product because of the price line,” Carrie Cason, a spokesperson for BAGI, told a local Fox News affiliate.

© / AudreyPopov

The builders groups are asking the court to throw out the new standards.

Citing the lawsuit, FOX59 reported that Arbor Homes had started building a six-section neighborhood called Briarstone in 2013, with affordably priced homes featuring vinyl siding facades.

The homes in the neighborhood’s first three sections were constructed under previous city standards; however, the builder says when it went to apply for permits to build the community’s last three sections, it received a memo from city officials that the new design standards would be applicable, the reports indicated.

The new rules would dramatically increase the cost of new homes in Briarstone by $20,000 and make it difficult for potential homeowners to buy in the subdivision, the builder argues.

City: Valid Rules

The city’s attorney did not immediately respond Monday (Aug. 1) to a request for comment on the case.

Mark Richards, Greenwood’s development director, has told media outlets that the city intends to “vigorously dispute the allegations.”

“Ordinances containing residential architectural standards are commonplace in Indiana communities and throughout the country," he told The Indianapolis Star. "Greenwood is committed to requiring builders to construct high-quality housing at all price points so that residents are protected in what is oftentimes their biggest investment — their homes.”


Tagged categories: Building codes; Building Envelope; Construction; Contractors; Home builders; North America; Regulations

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