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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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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