Carmel annexation upheld in long-running dispute

Carmel’s annexation of territory in southern Hamilton County that some landowners have been fighting for more than a dozen years was upheld Tuesday by the Indiana Court of Appeals, which previously reversed the trial court’s approval of the annexation.

Carmel in 2004 passed a resolution annexing Home Place, bound generally by 99th Street to the south, 111th Street to the north, Pennsylvania Street to the west and Westfield Boulevard to the east.

The appellate court had reversed the Hamilton Superior Court's initial approval of the annexation. The matter was remanded with instructions for the trial court to determine whether the landowners carried their burden of proof under Indiana Code § 36-4-3-13(e) (2004), which affords a separate avenue to challenge annexations.

After the matter was set aside for a period of a few years, the trial court in 2016 again took up the landowners’ remonstration on remand from the COA. The trial court then ruled in favor of Carmel, concluding that landowners failed to prove that fire protection could be adequately furnished by a provider other than Carmel. The COA affirmed that decision Tuesday.

Landowners could persuade neither the trial court nor the Court of Appeals that Home Place could be served with fire protection by Clay Township. The COA concluded the trial court in 2016 properly interpreted state statutes regarding a municipality’s right to exercise powers within four miles of its boundaries, circumstances when a municipality must provide fire protection, and others in reaching its findings and conclusion.

“The trial court ultimately found that (state law) asks who is furnishing the [fire protection] services — not who may be a ‘provider’,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the panel in Certain Home Place Annexation Territory Landowners v. City of Carmel, Indiana, 29A05-1606-MI-1291. “We agree.”

Because Carmel and Clay Township signed a contract in which Carmel agreed to provide fire service to township residents outside city limits, the COA found Carmel was the provider that furnished fire protection services to Home Place. The panel rejected landowners’ arguments that the trial court’s straight-forward factual analysis of who is doing most of the firefighting in Home Place failed to consider factors such as fire station ownership by the township in the area and past contributions by the township for fire protection.

“We find that the trial court considered all of the factors before it when it made its determination," Brown wrote. "No error occurred here,."

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