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COA: annexation detailed summary sufficient

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Ruling on the issue of whether or not a city's "detailed summary" of a fiscal plan followed statutory notice requirements, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed judgment today in favor of the city in a suit filed by remonstrators.

In Gary West, et al. v. The City of Princeton, No. 26A01-0806-CV-280, Gary West and other residents of a parcel of land Princeton was looking to annex challenged the approval of annexation by the Princeton Common Council. The remonstrators filed for summary judgment in their remonstrance action; the trial court denied it and entered judgment in favor of Princeton following a bench trial.

On appeal, West and others claimed Princeton failed to strictly comply with the relevant notice statute, Indiana Code Section 36-4-3-2.2, and that the trial court judgment is clearly erroneous in several respects.

The remonstrators argued they didn't receive a "detailed summary" of the fiscal plan as is required under statute. The notice sent to homeowners included information about what services Princeton would provide to homeowners, when they would begin paying property taxes to the city, and that a copy of the fiscal plan could be inspected at the Clerk-Treasurer's office or sent to a landowner on request.

In a footnote, Judge Cale Bradford wrote that the legislature didn't define "detailed summary" in this context, and in the court's view, the precise meaning will vary greatly depending on context. But the clear purpose of the statute is to put the affected landowners on notice of the city's proposed annexation, so the detailed summary need only be detailed enough to further that purpose, wrote the judge. The detailed summary in this case does that, providing services information and allowing them to receive or inspect a copy upon request. In addition, the remonstrators don't argue they were ever denied access to the full fiscal plan or how a denial would have prevented them from knowing about the annexation.

The Court of Appeals also affirmed the trial court's judgment followed Indiana Code Section 36-4-3-13, which governs the approval or denial of proposed annexation facing a challenge.

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