A judge has ruled that Carmel’s attempted annexation of a small area in Clay Township known as Home Place should be allowed to move forward.
In his decision, Special Judge Matthew Kincaid wrote that the residents of the 1,017-acre area of unincorporated Clay Township centered at 106th Street and College Avenue did not prove all of the elements necessary to prevent Carmel’s annexation.
The lengthy battle between the city and Home Place started in 2004 when Carmel voted to include the community in the city's boundaries.
A majority of the 2,200 residents of Home Place objected to the annexation and filed a lawsuit to prevent it. In 2005, Hamilton County Superior Judge William Hughes ruled in favor of the property owners, saying Carmel didn’t prove it could financially afford to annex the area.
But, in 2007, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed that decision, and the Indiana Supreme Court declined to hear the case and sent it back to the trial court for further review.
Both parties agreed to postpone proceedings until the end of 2015, and the case returned to court in April.
The residents needed to prove that they receive certain services, such as police and fire protection and street maintenance, without the help of the municipality trying to annex the land. They also are required by state law to show that the annexation would have “a significant financial impact” on residents and that it is opposed by at least 65 percent of the property owners.
Kincaid agreed that Home Place residents receive adequate police protection and street maintenance without assistance from Carmel. He also ruled that the citizens proved at least 65 percent of property owners opposed the annexation, and it would have a “significant financial impact” from higher property taxes.
“Carmel asserts that not everyone who signed a petition is really opposed to the annexation,” Kincaid wrote. “But Carmel really has no evidence of significant weight to counter the landowner’s showing of opposition.”
But Kincaid sided with Carmel on the argument about fire-protection services.
Clay Township technically provides the service, but does so by contracting with the Carmel Fire Department. The residents argued that it’s still the township’s responsibility, but the city refuted that argument by saying Carmel firefighters are the ones responding to incidents in Home Place.
“The landowners concede that the service is adequate, but not a single witness testified that it was adequately being provided without Carmel,” Kincaid wrote.
The judge stressed that the law “asks who is furnishing the services—not who may be ‘a provider.’”
Kincaid acknowledged in his ruling that Carmel has not proven that the annexation is in the best interests of Home Place residents, but because the property owners did not satisfy all of the requirements to prevent it, he ruled in favor of the city.
“Whether Home Place is better off because of Carmel has nothing to do with whether it will be better off as part of Carmel,” Kincaid wrote. “True though Carmel’s points may be, they just don’t lead to any meaningful conclusion about how the Home Place landowners are better off being annexed.”
Matt Milam, who has been leading the residential group opposed to the annexation, said they are appealing the decision.