Judge Clark denies Dunkin’s franchisee’s motion by county | Federal State

Indiana County Common Pleas Judge Michael T. Clark has ruled that the Indiana Borough Council’s decision to deny Heartland Restaurant Group LLC’s request to remove two parking lots along South Fifth Street “was not supported by substantial evidence “.

Those rooms were among four that Heartland planned to remove as part of its plan to convert a building at 518 Philadelphia St. into a Dunkin’ Donuts location. On March 8, the council approved the removal of two rooms along Philadelphia Street but refused the two rooms along South Fifth Street.

“The matter before this court was limited to a motion to remove parking meters/spaces,” Clark wrote. “Upon review of the records, this court finds that the council denied the request because ‘removing parking meters and parking lots would reduce security in the neighborhood.'”

However, Clark continued, “The Council failed to cite or point to any evidence, let alone material evidence, to support that finding.”

The ruling came a week after oral arguments were presented to Clark by Indiana Borough Solicitor Patrick Dougherty and Heartland’s attorney Alexis M. Wheeler of the Pittsburgh law firm of Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Gefsky.

Heartland, a Dunkin’ franchisee based in Forest Hills, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, along with Indiana-based building owner VRB Associates Inc., are appealing the district’s decision.

Heartland owns Dunkin’ franchises throughout western Pennsylvania, including one at 1669 Oakland Ave. in White Township.

Heartland and VRB sought the actions to provide for cuts in and out of the proposed downtown Dunkin location.

Dougherty cited, among other things, “concerns brought to the council members by voters … as well as information provided by (Indiana Borough Police Chief Justin) Schawl.”

Wheeler said, “Elected officials like Indiana Borough Council members are required to justify their decisions, particularly those affecting property rights, and in this case they didn’t.”

Clark wrote, “While the Council’s discussion was thorough and insightful, the discussion is not proof.”

The judge found that Heartland had complied with all requirements placed on that company by county officials.

Clark also wrote, “Based on the review of the council meeting (8 due to the nature of Heartland’s business and the creation of an entrance/exit via South Fifth Street that worries her.”

And, the judge said, “those issues were not before the council.”

Council President Dr. Peter Broad emailed on Wednesday night that he “hasn’t had an answer yet. I want to speak to the lawyer before I say anything.”

The next voting meeting of the council will take place on December 6th at 7 p.m