Tracy Landis’ fight to bring her nonprofit pit bull rescue kennels to Warsaw is moving full speed ahead with an offer made Thursday by her attorney, Cody Williams of Franklin & Williams, P.C., Fort Wayne, to fight the appeal pro bono.
On Tuesday, StaceyPageOnline.com revealed what appeared to be gross errors in a ruling made by the Kosciusko County Board of Zoning Appeals (See story). Landis immediately sought the help of Williams, who initially agreed to challenge the BZA for a fee of $1,500.
On Thursday, however, after reviewing our story and the documentation from the BZA findings, Williams informed Landis he would be taking the case without a fee. He explained, “I so, so strongly believe in this case and realized that, at the end of the day, we would just be taking money away from the rescue and that’s not what we want to do,” Williams explained.
Among the problems Williams sees with the BZA decision to deny Landis’ S.C.A.R.S. Pit Bull Rescue the right to build kennels in an agricultural district, is the fact that two of the four board members – those being John Connolly and Lee Harman – denied that the kennels even qualify as a “special exception” per the county zoning ordinance. “That alone should be justification for a new hearing,” said Williams. “The county ordinance specifically lists kennels are a special exception in an agricultural district.”
Williams said, “I believe the decision to deny the rescue is an injustice to the community, to Tracy and her life work and to the breed … they are basically telling a nonprofit dog rescue that provides a community service that they won’t allow the community service to rescue dogs, but it’s OK for the breeders. They are saying that a nonprofit organization that went about doing everything the right way, shouldn’t be allowed to do it because of public opinion.”
The assumption that Williams and Landis have is that the BZA board – Connolly, Harman, Walt Church and Charles Haffner (member Charlotte Siegfried was not present for the vote) – flatly denied the dog rescue because of the breed. “Based on what I see from the case and the findings of fact, the decision was based on the opinion of the public and the type of dog,” Williams added, “but I will argue those people had no valid interest because they don’t live beside the property.”
Many of the names on a petition given to the BZA in opposition of the pit bull rescue were from miles away from the property, located at 7263 W. 100 S., Warsaw, and even included the names of residents in Bourbon, Etna Green and Tippecanoe. “There’s no valid interest for those people to oppose it,” said Williams.
Williams has even involved law professors who have taken an interest in the case due to what appears to be blatant disregard by the BZA of zoning laws. “We also have other rescue groups that are willing to fall behind us and fight this. This could end up being pretty big,” he added.
Landis has 30 days from the time the petition was denied on June 11 to appeal the decision. Williams said he initially plans to seek a new hearing based on the board’s own error of properly identifying a special exception.
“We want to work with the (BZA),” Williams explained. “Tracy already put a limit on the number of dogs and the (county) can impose restrictions. We will work with them, but they just made a decision based on assumptions where there is no basis for those assumptions.”