STATEMENT OF THE CASE
Gerald M. Dierckman and Sandy Dierckman (collectively Dierckmans) appeal from the trial court's judgment finding them in violation of the Franklin County Area Zoning Code (Zoning Code), which prohibits the discharge of pollutants and the operation of a junkyard in a secondary agricultural zone. The trial court ordered them to pay $150,000 in fines, and issued a mandatory injunction requiring them to remove the offending debris from their land.
The Dierckmans present several issues for our consideration, which we restate as follows:
1. Whether the evidence was sufficient to establish that the Dierckmans violated the Zoning Code.
3. Whether the trial court erred when it fined the Dierckmans $150,000.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
The Dierckmans own and occupy a farm located in Franklin County that is zoned for secondary agriculture. In late 1999, the Dierckmans contracted with the City of Batesville to remove building debris from the site of a demolished furniture factory. The debris included, among other things, sizeable amounts of wood, metal, and masonry. The Dierckmans hauled the debris to their farm and dumped it in a hollow. In February 2000, the Dierckmans set fire to the debris causing smoke, ash, and fumes to spread into nearby residential areas.
After receiving complaints from neighboring landowners, the Franklin County Area Planning Commission (Commission) filed a complaint against the Dierckmans alleging that they had discharged air pollutants from their property and were operating a junkyard in violation of Zoning Code provisions 80.06(F) and 80.47(75), respectively. The Commission sought a permanent restraining order prohibiting the Dierckmans from further discharging air pollutants and a mandatory injunction requiring them to remove the offending debris. It also requested that the Dierckmans be fined $2,500 for each day they were not in compliance with the Zoning Code.
At a hearing on May 11, 2000, the trial court heard testimony that over a period of several weeks, beginning around the middle of February, smoke, falling ash, and foul odors from the Dierckmans' fire permeated neighboring property and houses. On one occasion, the falling ash was so heavy it appeared to be snowing, and the smoke caused one neighbor's eyes to burn. Gerald Dierckman conceded that he set fire to the debris and that it was not yet completely extinguished. Following the presentation of evidence, the trial court specifically found that the Dierckmans had violated Zoning Code Section 80.06(F) pertaining to the discharge of air pollutants, and the trial court entered a permanent restraining order requiring the Dierckmans to cease hauling demolition material onto their property that did not conform to Zoning Code requirements.
At the dispositional hearing on June 21, 2000, neighboring landowners testified that the Dierckmans had not yet put out the fire and that they could still smell smoke in their neighborhood. The trial court therefore issued a mandatory injunction requiring the Dierckmans to completely excavate that area of their real estate where they disposed of all the debris and remove all materials other than dirt by August 23, 2000.
At the final hearing on August 24, 2000, neither side could confirm whether the Dierckmans had complied with the trial court's order to remove the debris. The trial court then ordered the Dierckmans to pay $150,000 in fines—$2,500 for each of the sixty days it determined that the Dierckmans had allowed smoke, debris, and fumes to penetrate nearby residential areas in violation of the Zoning Code. This appeal followed.
DISCUSSION AND DECISION
A. Sufficiency of the Evidence
The Dierckmans initially argue that the Commission failed to present sufficient
Initially, we note that neither party requested special findings of fact under Trial Rule 52(A), nor did the trial court enter such findings sua sponte. Thus, we review the decision of the trial court under the general judgment standard. See Shelby Eng'g Co., Inc. v. Action Steel Supply, Inc., 707 N.E.2d 1026, 1027 (Ind.Ct.App.1999). A general judgment will be affirmed if it can be sustained upon any legal theory consistent with the evidence. Id. In making this determination, we neither reweigh the evidence nor judge the credibility of witnesses. Rather, we consider only the evidence most favorable to the judgment together with all reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom. Id.
Section 80.06(F) of the Zoning Code provides:
(Emphasis added). Undefined words in a statute are given their plain, ordinary and usual meaning. State v. DMZ, 674 N.E.2d 585, 588 (Ind.Ct.App.1996). Courts may consult English language dictionaries to ascertain the plain and ordinary meaning of a statutory term. DMZ, 674 N.E.2d at 588. Detrimental is defined as: Causing damage or harm; injurious. THE AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY 510 (3rd ed. 1996). Three neighbors testified that they endured smoke and foul odors. One neighbor, Kathy Lamb, testified that the smoke caused her eyes to burn on one occasion, and on another occasion the ash was so thick it appeared to be snowing. But none of the neighbors said they suffered any harm or injury to their health. Further, the Commission offered no other evidence that the smoke or fumes were harmful or injurious, and it failed to demonstrate that foul odors and burning eyes alone are detrimental to health within the meaning of the Zoning Code. In addition, the Commission neither presented evidence that the burning debris caused harm to animals, vegetation, or property, nor did it show that the Dierckmans' usage of their property conflicted with public air quality standards. See Zoning Code § 80.06(F). We thus agree with the Dierckmans that the Commission failed to establish a violation under Zoning Code Section 80.06(F).
However, that is not the end of our inquiry. As we stated earlier, we will affirm the trial court's judgment if it can be sustained on any legal theory consistent with the evidence. Shelby Eng'g. Co., 707 N.E.2d at 1027. Zoning Code Section 80.06(E) provides: No use shall emit across the lot lines malodorous gas or matter in such quantity as to readily be detectable at any point along the lot lines.
Based on this evidence, the trial court could well have concluded that the Dierckmans violated Zoning Code Section 80.06(E) since the malodorous gas or matter was detectable on property well beyond the Dierckmans' farm from mid February to mid June, a period of approximately four months.
B. Mandatory Injunction
The Dierckmans next assert that the trial court erred when it found that they were operating a junkyard in violation of the Zoning Code and issued a mandatory injunction ordering them to remove the debris comprising the junkyard from their property. We cannot agree.
The grant or denial of an injunction is discretionary, and we will not reverse unless the trial court's action was arbitrary or constituted a clear abuse of discretion. Indiana High School Athletic Ass'n, Inc. v. Durham, 748 N.E.2d 404, 412 (Ind.Ct.App.2001). An abuse of discretion occurs when the trial court's decision is clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances or if the trial court misinterprets the law. Id. A party seeking an injunction for a zoning violation must prove: (1) the existence of a valid ordinance and (2) a violation of that ordinance. Harbour Town Assoc., Ltd. v. City of Noblesville, 540 N.E.2d 1283, 1284 (Ind.Ct.App.1989).
Here, the trial court issued the injunction after finding that the Dierckmans' debris pile amounted to a junkyard in violation of Zoning Code Section 80.47(75). That section provides:
Any place at which personal property is or may be salvaged for reuse, resale, or reduction or similar disposition and is
At the hearings, the Dierckmans admitted that they hauled truckloads of demolition debris onto their property and set it ablaze. Gerald testified that two-thirds of the material consisted of concrete and bricks, with most of the other contents being wood waste and metal materials. Record at 129. In addition, Gerald admitted that he had planned to crush some of the red bricks for ... landscaping purposes and later conceded that he loaded a semi-trailer of scrap metal from the debris, hauled it to Richmond, and sold it. Record at 128, 212. Additionally, the Dierckmans introduced inspection reports prepared by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management recounting the Dierckmans' intention to remove the majority of red bricks, metal[,] and steel items for salvaging purposes. Report and Comments of Agricultural and Solid Waste Compliance at 2. This evidence supports a finding that the Dierckmans were operating a junkyard in violation of Zoning Code Section 80.47(75). Because the Dierckmans violated the ordinance, the trial court's issuance of a mandatory injunction requiring them to remove the offending material from their land was not a clear abuse of discretion.
C. The $150,000 Fine
Finally, the Dierckmans contend that the trial court erred when it ordered them to pay $150,000 in fines. In particular, the Dierckmans argue that Zoning Code Section 80.99, which authorizes fines in excess of $2,500, conflicts with Indiana Code Section 36-1-3-8(a)(10), which limits the fine for ordinance violations to $2,500 per violation. As such, they posit that the Indiana Code provision should control and that the trial court should have imposed a $2,500 fine. We cannot agree.
The interpretation of a statute is a question of law reserved for the courts. State v. Rans, 739 N.E.2d 164, 166 (Ind.Ct.App.2000), trans. denied. Appellate courts review questions of law under a de novo standard and owe no deference to a trial court's legal conclusions. Id. If the language of a statute is clear and unambiguous, it is not subject to judicial interpretation. Id. Moreover, it is well settled that we are to apply the rules of statutory construction when construing an ordinance. Burrell v. Lake County Plan Comm'n., 624 N.E.2d 526, 529 (Ind.Ct.
(Emphasis added). In turn, Indiana Code Section 36-1-3-8(a)(10) provides that a town, municipality, or township does not have the power to prescribe a penalty of... [m]ore than two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) for such an ordinance violation. Contrary to the Dierckmans' claim, these two provisions are not in conflict. Rather, Indiana Code Section 36-1-3-8(a)(10) prohibits Franklin County from charging more than $2,500 for an ordinance violation. The provision does not make $2,500 the maximum aggregate penalty or otherwise limit a county's power to fine an offender for each of multiple offenses. Accordingly, Zoning Code Section 80.99, which designates each day a violation continues as a separate offense, does not conflict with the Indiana Code's requirement that an offender be fined no more than $2,500 per violation.
DARDEN, J., and BARNES, J., concur.