Court rules on annexation, land dispute

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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A county was able to establish an economic development area in unincorporated land that was also in the process of being annexed by a town because the annexation process hadn't been completed yet, ruled the Indiana Supreme Court.

When the Boone County Redevelopment Commission (RDC) initiated proceedings to create an economic development area (EDA), the area included land on which Whitestown had initiated annexation proceedings just one week earlier in July 2006. In October 2006, the Boone County Board of Commissioners approved the establishment of the EDA.

A trial court held pursuant to Indiana's economic development statutes, the RDC had the authority and jurisdiction to establish the EDA; the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the trial court. The appellate court held the county's authority to create the EDA was precluded by the town's initiation of annexation proceedings.

The Indiana Supreme Court on Monday affirmed the decision of the trial court in Brenwick Associates LLC and Town of Whitestown, Indiana v. Boone County Redevelopment Commission and the Board of Commissioners of Boone County, Indiana, No. 06S04-0712-CV-573.

The issue in this case is whether the fact Whitestown started annexation proceedings by introducing an annexation ordinance at the town council meeting precluded Boone County from creating the EDA.

In order to resolve the issue, the high court examined the economic development statutes in Indiana Code Sections 36-7-14-1 to -48. A conflict that can occur under these statutes is when a municipality with a commission decides to annex territory located in a county redevelopment area. At the point in time that annexation is complete, the land in the county redevelopment district is included in the municipality's redevelopment district, which is happening in the instant case.

The Boone County RDC doesn't include any territory in Whitestown because the town has its own redevelopment commission.

"However, when the RDC started establishing the disputed EDA that included the unincorporated 1,425 acres, Whitestown had not completed annexation over any part of this territory; the territory area was not within its corporate boundaries and, therefore, not within its redevelopment district," wrote Justice Frank Sullivan.

Under Indiana Code Sections 36-7-14-3(b) and 41, the RDC had the authority to establish the EDA in the disputed territory until Whitestown had completed its annexation of the disputed territory.

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