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Lawsuit by neighbors seeks to block Medline project in Hammond
Ken Benitez
/ Categories: Latest Stories

Lawsuit by neighbors seeks to block Medline project in Hammond

A group of Hammond residents are asking the 21st Judicial District Court to review the process by which the City of Hammond rezoned more than 40 acres of land on Industrial Park Boulevard last month and overturn the city’s ordinance by which the property was reclassified for light industrial commercial use.

Hammond residents Courtney Forbes, Richard Vicaro, Tom and Ginger Daughdrill, Tommy Schwartzmann, Michael and Cynthia Blessing, and Jane Bretschger have filed suit against the City of Hammond, Mayor Pete Panepinto in his official capacity, four members of the Hammond City Council (Carlee White Gonzales, and the Hammond Planning and Zoning Commission for their move to rezone 41.75 acres owned by Round Table Investments.

Located at the southeast corner of Vineyard Road and Industrial Park Boulevard, the tract of undeveloped land was previously zoned as RS-8, or "single family residential."

Attorney Robert Ellis, who represents the residents, calls the Dec. 8 vote by the Hammond Council to approve the measure an act of “unlawful spot zoning” and says the move was “necessary simply to accommodate the special interests” of the property owner and Medline Industries, the company that bought the land to develop a distribution center at that site.

The suit alleges Hammond’s “City Government, acting through the City Council and the Mayor Pete Panepinto, and the Hammond Planning and Zoning Commission abused its discretion, acted arbitrarily and capriciously, and acted in violation of the applicable laws, codes, the Comprehensive Master Plan” by adopting the rezoning request ordinance. Ellis argues that Medline’s proposed use of the property, rezoned now as “light industrial” is “fronted by residential properties,” and as such will create “adverse impacts on the community,” fails to consider “traffic safety issues,” and questions flood issues because of a failure to complete flood impact analysis. Ellis also alleges alternate sites for this project were available, but the company “has not submitted any evidence to the Council showing why the alternative sites are not satisfactory.”

“Opponents of the rezoning have shown that I-L zoning would be detrimental to the health, welfare, and safety of the community, and would be contrary to the Comprehensive Master Plan adopted to ensure the stability of this area,” the suit alleges.

On the residents’ behalf, Ellis asks the court to consider all of these issues at trial, and if successful, overturn the vote of the council to return the property to an RS-8 zoning, as it was previously established. Plaintiffs also ask the court to grant a permanent injunction to stop the city from issuing any light industrial-related building permits or construction at the site, if the rezoning vote is overturned.

The case is currently allotted to Judge William Scott Dykes in Division F of 21st Judicial District Court. According to court officials, the case is not yet set for a hearing.

Several city officials were approached for comment on this suit. Those contacted declined, citing the advice of their attorney due to the pending litigation in the matter.
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