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Justices send Boonville annexation case back to trial court

January 21, 2014

Multiple parcels of land acquired by the state for an adjoining public roadway should be counted as one parcel for purposes of remonstration, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

In American Cold Storage, et al. v. The City of Boonville, 87S01-1303-PL-157, the justices had to decide whether the statutory prerequisite 65 percent of remonstrating landowners is to be determined by separately counting the multiple parcels acquired by the state to make up State Road 62 or collectively as one parcel.

Landowners filed an action to remonstrate against an attempt by the city of Boonville to annex 1,165 acres of real estate located west of the city’s geographical limits. The city sought to dismiss, claiming the landowners didn’t satisfy the statutory requirements of I.C. 36-4-3-11(a). The case wound its way to the Indiana court of Appeals – where the judges ruled that separate parcels were not to be counted except as constituting the public highway – and back to the trial court. In 2011, the trial court dismissed the landowners’ action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.

The landowners then appealed, asserting that the trial court, in calculating whether the 65 percent remonstrance threshold was satisfied, erroneously separately counted those parcels that had been acquired by the state and that now comprise State Road 62, thereby precluding the remonstrators from satisfying the threshold. The Court of Appeals reversed and held that the multiple parcels acquired by the state to build State Road 62 should be counted as a single parcel under the Remonstrance Statute.

The justices found this case to be distinguishable from the cases involving private owners of multiple parcels in Arnold v. City of Terre Haute, 725 N.E2d. 869 (Ind. 2000), and City of Fort Wayne v. Certain Northeast Annexation Area Landowners, 564 N.E.2d 297. (Ind. Ct. App. 1990).

“We hold that the land in this case, which comprises the portion of State Road 62 included in the annexed territory, should be considered and counted as a single parcel in determining whether the remonstrating Landowners comprise 65 percent of the owners of the annexed territory. We therefore reverse the decision of the trial court and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion,” Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote.
 

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