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COA: Annexation should have been granted

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The Indiana Court of Appeals found that a Circuit Court incorrectly ruled that Muncie failed to meet its statutory burden when trying to annex portions of two residential neighborhoods. The appellate court reversed the finding Muncie's ordinances annexing the land were invalid and the finding the landowners met their statutory burden to oppose the annexation.

In In re: Annexation of certain territory to the City of Muncie, Ind. v. Certain Halteman Village Section I and Brewington Woods Landowners, No. 18A02-0901-CV-89, Muncie appealed the order granting the remonstrance petitions of Halteman Village and Brewington Woods landowners, and the finding that the ordinances that annexed those neighborhoods were invalid. The trial court found the ordinances and the city's fiscal plans failed to meet Indiana Code Section 36-4-3-13(d) by failing to take into consideration the property tax caps when developing its fiscal plans, by not accounting for or providing cost estimates of planned services for the annexed land, and failing to prove fire protection services of an equivalent manner as those currently provided in Muncie could be in place in the annexed territory within a year.

Muncie officials testified at trial they had no way to know at that point the precise effect the tax caps would have on the city and on the level of services provided. The officials also said the services would be provided, regardless of the legislative change.

Subsection 13(d) only requires cost estimates, which the city of Muncie met. Therefore, the trial court erred in finding Muncie failed to meet its statutory burden to prove cost estimates based on its failure to amend the fiscal plans during trial, wrote Chief Judge John Baker.

Muncie officials also testified there would be essentially no extra costs to Muncie as a result of the annexation for noncapital services, so the trial court erred in finding the city failed to meet its statutory burden on this basis, he wrote.

The trial court denied the annexation in part because it believed Muncie couldn't guarantee the needed fire hydrants could be installed within one year as required by statute because it had to be done by a public utility. Because a fiscal plan is an absolute promise that an annexed area will receive comparable capital and noncapital services, without regard to cost, Muncie has committed to provide that service and no further guarantee is required, wrote the chief judge.

The appellate court reviewed the trial court's findings that the annexation would have a significant impact on the landowners and that at least 65 percent of them opposed the annexation. There was no evidence presented on how much any landowner's taxes would increase nor how that would create a substantial financial impact.

"Furthermore, we note that all annexations add a municipal tax layer. Therefore, to find that any tax increase would cause a significant financial impact would essentially bring every annexation under the purview of this subsection (I.C. Section 36-4-3-13(e)(2)), rendering this portion of the statute meaningless," Chief Judge Baker wrote.

The Court of Appeals also found the landowners weren't entitled to relief because they couldn't prove that 65 percent of them still opposed the annexation.

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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