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COA: annexed parcels must touch each other

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reaffirmed today that Indiana requires that an annexation ordinance applies only to solid, unbroken areas of land. This issue arose in an annexation dispute between two northern Indiana towns.

In Town of Dyer, Lake County, Ind. v. Town of St. John, Ind., et al., No. 45A03-0908-CV-360, Dyer appealed the dismissal of its amended complaint for declaratory judgment and a permanent injunction preventing St. John from annexing land Dyer intended to annex.

Dyer introduced an ordinance in 2008 to annex three separate parcels of land that adjoined the town's existing boundaries, but didn't adjoin each other. Dyer didn't act on the ordinance and several months later, at the encouragement of landowners, St. John began annexing some of the land proposed in the Dyer ordinances.

Dyer tried to prevent the annexation, but the trial court dismissed its complaint and amended complaint because Dyer's annexation attempt was void and unenforceable.

Dyer's annexation ordinance was invalid because it contained three non-adjacent parcels, the Court of Appeals concluded. The judges found the statutory definition of contiguous is ambiguous with respect to whether all of the land a municipality wants to annex in a single ordinance must form a uniform, undivided body.

Using caselaw on the matter, the appellate judges believed it still stood that the land a municipality wants to annex should consist of one uniform body and not separate pieces of land.

"Since 1864, there has been an understanding that all of the tracts of land a municipality seeks to annex must be contiguous to each other," wrote Judge Michael Barnes. "If the legislature had wanted to allow the annexation of multiple, non-adjacent parcels of land in a single annexation ordinance, which would appear to contravene over a century of case law, it could have expressly drafted the new definition of contiguity in 1981 to clearly say so."

Allowing a municipality to simultaneously annex disjointed parcels of land in one ordinance would violate the basic principles behind the contiguity requirement, such as impacting the ability to provide city services.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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