Opponents of the Town of Brownsburg’s planned annexation of 4,461 acres to its north prevailed before the Indiana Court of Appeals Friday. The court ruled the trial judge erred in determining he lacked subject matter jurisdiction to determine whether the residents’ remonstrance petition was valid.
Fight Against Brownsburg Annexation opposed plans to add the acreage to the town and appealed the ruling by now-retired Hendricks Superior Judge David H. Coleman. The Court of Appeals panel found not only that the matter should have been heard, but that it was clear the petition against the annexation had collected more than the required number of signatures to contest it.
“The trial court had subject matter jurisdiction to determine the sufficiency of FABA’s remonstrance petition under Indiana Code Section 36-4-3-11. We hold that a Trial Rule 12(B)(1) motion is not a proper vehicle for challenging the sufficiency of a remonstrance petition … and the trial court erred when it dismissed FABA’s petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction,” Judge Edward Najam wrote for the panel in Fight Against Brownsburg Annexation, et al. v. Town of Brownsburg, Indiana, et al., 32A01-1407-PL-300.
“The remonstrance petition is sufficient on its face, and we reverse and remand for a hearing on the merits. On remand, should Brownsburg challenge the validity of the signatures in support of FABA’s petition at the merits hearing, we hold that: (1) any otherwise valid signatures of owners obtained prior to publication of the annexation ordinance are to be counted; and (2) only one owner need have signed on behalf of each parcel.”
The panel noted that under new laws taking effect in July, an annexation ordinance is void if a remonstrance petition is signed by at least 65 percent of landowners in the annexation area, among other changes.