Bay Colony Civic Corp. v. Pearl Gasper Trust (IN)

Summary: Neighborhood association did not exceed the scope of an easement burdening resident’s property when it allowed non-waterfront residents to access the reservoir and did not violate the association’s bylaws in using association funds to provide the access.


Bay Colony Civic Corp. v. Pearl Gasper Trust, 984 N.E.2d 231 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013).


Facts: Pearl Gasper and Bruce Waller, two homeowners of waterfront lots with private boat docks, sought to prevent their neighbors from using an easement burdening their property for access to a reservoir in Bay Colony, a residential development in Marion County, Indiana. In Bay Colony, about half of the homeowners own “waterfront lots” facing the reservoir and the other half of the residents are further away. Those without waterfront lots contend that the easement gives them access to the reservoir. The land immediately at the water’s edge, running all around the reservoir, is owned by the City of Indianapolis. According to Bay Colony's covenants, the easement established an “area over, through, and across which the owners in this subdivision, their tenants and invitees shall have access to public land adjoining [the reservoir] Eagle Creek Lake.”


Gasper and Waller erected signs stating that the docks were private property and barred entry with a gate when other Bay Colony residents began using their docks without permission. Gasper and Waller exchanged several communications with the neighborhood association, Bay Colony Civic Corporation (“the Association”), about the trespass on their docks and the Association's wish to build a community dock in the area. Subsequently, the Association removed Gasper’s erected gate and fence and did landscape work, using association funds, to make it safer and easier for Bay Colony residents to reach the water without trespassing on the private docks.


Gasper and Waller filed suit seeking an injunction preventing the association from entering their lots, altering or removing their docks, or blocking Gasper’s access to her dock, and for the impermissible use of association funds. The trial court, in a partial summary judgment, issued an order determining the easement did not grant Bay Colony residents access to the reservoir itself, but did allow them access to the public land surround the reservoir. Further, the court determined that the Association violated its bylaws by spending funds on public land in the work it performed and violated City regulation by not obtaining approval to make changes on the city owned land.


Holding: Reversed and remanded. The appellate court held that the trial court erred in barring all but waterfront lot owners from using the easement to access the water and in barring the association from using funds on the public land. The Association argued, and the appellate court agreed, that by analyzing the intent of the parties in creating the original easement, that the very purpose of the easement was to give Bay Colony residents a way to reach the water and not just access to the public land surrounding the reservoir. Applying the general rules of contract interpretation, the court found that none of the provisions in the association’s bylaws prevented them from using funds on public land. Rather, it was under the Associations purview to use the funds to provide for the residents’ health, safety, and welfare. Further, the Association did not violate the City regulations in not obtaining approval to make changes to the public land as the Associations actions were consonant with the existing easement.

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By: ATG Underwriting Department | Posted on: Wed, 07/17/2013 - 4:57pm