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COA affirms rulings for Sellersburg in annexation case

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The town of Sellersburg’s annexation proceedings should take priority over an incorporation proceeding involving the same area of land, the Indiana Court of Appeals held.

In Covered Bridge Homeowners Association, Inc., Clark County, Indiana Commission, et al. v. Town of Sellersburg, Indiana, 10A01-1101-PL-13, landowners in the 1,800 acres in Clark County that Sellersburg intended to annex filed a remonstrance against it. Sellersburg’s town council approved a written fiscal plan and introduced its annexation ordinance in June 2008, but it failed to send out notices to all affected landowners. A hearing scheduled in August was cancelled, and negotiations between the council and the landowners on the proposed annexation failed.

In August 2009, the landowners filed a petition with the Clark County Commissioners to incorporate the new town of Covered Bridge. The commissioners adopted an ordinance approving the landowners’ petition. Just days later, the Sellersburg council adopted the proposed annexation ordinance.

Sellersburg sued the commissioners, arguing it was “first in time” and its annexation should take priority. The landowners’ association and others also filed a remonstrance against the annexation, to which Sellersburg filed a motion to dismiss based on remonstrance waiver provisions executed by subdivision developers as a condition for connection to Sellersburg’s sewer system.

The trial judges ruled in favor of Sellersburg in both cases. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the annexation proceeding is first in time and takes priority over the incorporation proceeding because it was validly instituted in June 2008. Sellersburg’s initial failure to comply with the statutory notice provisions and hold a public hearing didn’t invalidate the annexation.

The COA also held that the statutory remonstrance waiver requirements were substantially complied with and so the remonstrance lacks sufficient valid signatures.

 

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