Three-unrelated proposal faces uncertainty after court ruling

A Muncie housing proposal to limit the number of unrelated tenants in newly converted rental homes is under fire after a similar ordinance was deemed unconstitutional by the Indiana Court of Appeals Friday.

According to the courts opinion, Bloomington's ban on three unrelated people living together violated the Equal Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Indiana Constitution.

The Court also stated the city failed to prove the ordinance achieved its goal of controlling density, alleviating traffic and preserving neighborhoods.

Bloomington Assistant Attorney Michael Flory said the city plans on petitioning the Indiana Supreme Court to take the case on transfer.

"I think our ordinance will be upheld once it gets to the Supreme Court," Flory said. "It should withstand the constitutional attack."

Flory said final action on the case should occur within the next year.

Muncie City Attorney Frank Gilkison said it might take months to know how the Bloomington ruling will affect a Muncie proposal that prohibits more than three unrelated tenants from living in a newly converted rental home.

"The Bloomington case is still open," Gilkison said. "As Yogi Berra used to say, 'It's not over until the Supreme Court sings.'"

The Council's land and traffic committee already recommended removing the three unrelated rule from the housing proposal. But the proposal was re-introduced at the May meeting with the three unrelated rule included.

Council President Bill Shroyer said the rule would most likely be eliminated if the Supreme Court re-affirms the appellate decision.

Gary Rice, president of the Apartment Association of East Central Indiana, said the association supported all proposed changes to the housing code, except the three unrelated rule.

"We're hoping City Council will look at that (ruling) and realize that particular part of the ordinance should not even be included," Rice said.

Bill Morgan, co-vice president of the Riverside-Normal City Neighborhood Association, said he would be surprised if City Council passes the proposal with the three unrelated rule.

Morgan said an absence of the three unrelated rule will just make the other proposals within the ordinance even more important.

"(The other changes) are obviously not as strong as we would like to see," Morgan said. "But they are a great step in the right direction."


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