The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled a town’s failure to include roads in an annexation ordinance where it sought to annex two pieces of land rendered the ordinance void.
The town of Reynolds in White County adopted an ordinance that would annex two pieces of property. The Board of Commissioners of White County filed a two-count complaint for declaratory judgment three months later claiming the town did not include certain county roads that it should have included as required by Indiana Code 36-4-3-2.5. The town filed an answer, counter-claim and motion for partial summary judgment and the county filed a cross-motion for summary judgment.
The trial court ruled in favor of the county, finding the town violated the statute, which rendered the annexation ordinance void, and that the county had standing to sue because of its interest in maintaining the roads in the area Reynolds would annex. Reynolds appealed.
Reynolds did not dispute it failed to comply with the statute, but argued its failure to do so should be overlooked. The COA disagreed. Reynolds also argued the county lacked standing to sue, and again the COA disagreed.
“The County is included in the class of individuals who may bring a declaratory judgment action under the (Indiana Declaratory Judgment) Act,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote for the panel. He agreed with the trial court that the county is in charge of maintaining county roadways, which includes roadways within the parcels to be annexed, and therefore the county had standing to sue due to its interest in maintaining the roadways.
“Thus, we conclude that the County had standing to enforce Section 2.5 by bringing the underlying declaratory judgment action. Otherwise, the County would have no recourse to protect its interests as provided within the annexation code. Such a result would appear to be contrary to the intent of the General Assembly and would arguably render Section 2.5 unenforceable,” Bradford wrote.
In a footnote, Bradford added, “Indeed, if the County does not have standing to seek to enforce section 2.5, we are left wondering who would.”
The case is Town of Reynolds v. Board of Commissioners of White County and Certain Identified Landowners Remonstrating Against Ordinance No. 2014-09-02EX-2, 79A02-1511-MI-1821.