The battle between Zionsville and Whitestown came before the Indiana Supreme Court Wednesday as each town tried to lay claim to neighboring Perry Township.
A key point in the dispute is whether Zionsville’s border is adjacent to Perry Township. Indiana statute prohibits towns from annexing non-contiguous territory. Whitestown contended Zionsville does not meet the statutory requirement, but Zionsville countered that as a result of its 2010 reorganization, it does comply with the statute.
Four justices of the Indiana Supreme Court heard arguments in the Town of Zionsville v. Town of Whitestown and Angel Badillo, 06A01-1410-PL-432, to determine if it will grant transfer.
Justice Steven David did not participate in the case.
Boone Superior Court granted summary judgment to Whitestown, but the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed in June 2015. The COA found that when Zionsville reorganized in 2010 with Eagle and Union townships, its border expanded to the area where it assumed the township services.
The justices seemed skeptical of Zionsville’s argument.
Referring to the COA finding, Mark Crandley, attorney at Barnes & Thornburg, began explaining that Zionsville had reorganized with two townships, Eagle and Union.
Justice Dickson interrupted, “But it did not annex.”
“Correct, Crandley replied, “although the municipal border of Zionsville moved up to all the unincorporated parts of Eagle and Union townships.”
Crandley then presented a second argument that Zionsville’s corporate limits do touch a portion of Perry Township.
“..there’s another type of border at issue and this is what the Court of Appeals looked at,” he said. “We are mandated to provide townships services and to do so within Whitestown itself. We have no choice in this matter and we do it tax free.”
Chief Justice Loretta Rush countered, “But for providing the township services, you have no adjacency?”
“No, I would disagree with that your honor,” Crandley responded.
“How do you have adjacency other than if you don’t use the vestiges of what used to be Eagle Township,” Rush asked. “… I’m looking at the map in the record and I just don’t see it.”
Crandley renewed Zionsville’s second adjacency argument that there is more than 150 feet of corporate limits between the town and Perry Township.
Justice Mark Massa interjected, “You’re saying there is contiguity?”
“Absolutely,” Crandley answered.
“Geographical, physical, real contiguity? … Of more than 150 feet?” Massa continued.
Pointing to a map included in his transfer brief, Crandley replied, “But if we’re only going to consider the corporate limits of the town of Zionsville … that is more than 150 feet. That is the town of Zionsville’s corporate border.”
During his rebuttal argument for Whitestown, Stephen Unger, attorney with Bose McKinney & Evans, disputed Zionsville corporate limits extend to Perry Township. He described the area in question as a vestige of the former township that was eliminated when Zionsville reorganized. Zionsville, he said, provides township services but has not extended its municipal boundary.
Earlier, Unger also argued against Zionsville’s reliance on the Indiana Government Modernization Act of 2006 to support its attempt to reorganize with Perry Township. Unger said the Act was designed to eliminate inefficient layers of government and it was not intended to land lock a municipality.
“This creates an untenable position for local government,” Unger told the court. It “opens the door to land grabbing that has nothing to do with local government efficiency.”