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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Ind. Decisions - "Annexation bid in hands of justices"

Oral arguments in the case of City of Carmel v. Certain Southwest Clay Township Annexation Territory Landowners will be held today at 9:45 a.m. before the Indiana Supreme Court. You may watch them live (or later) here.

Bill Ruthhart reports today in the Indianapolis Star:

Carmel will take its fight to annex an adjacent collection of wealthy neighborhoods to the Indiana Supreme Court today in a case that promises to resonate across the state.

Losing its bid to annex southwest Clay Township -- 8.3 square miles of high-end homes and horse farms -- would be a blow to Carmel as well as cities and towns elsewhere that are hoping to expand their boundaries, secure their tax base and better manage their growth.

Conversely, it would be a victory for homeowners who believe annexations are simply a way of getting them to pay higher taxes.

"This absolutely is being watched statewide. Any community that is growing is worried about what is going to happen with this Carmel case," said Michael Shaver, an annexation consultant who has worked for Carmel and other cities across the state.

"Everyone wants to know, 'How will this affect us?' This case's impact is universal."

Today's court arguments come as annexation feuds across the state are at an all-time high. At the same time, legislators this year have called for an overhaul of the state's annexation laws.

For Carmel, a win means increasing the city's assessed property value to about $7 billion from its current $5.6 billion and folding a large chunk of the township into the city proper.

Annexation opponents, however, project their property taxes would rise by 21 percent should Carmel prevail.

Almost all Indiana annexations are voluntary, meaning property owners give the city or town permission to incorporate their land. But in fast-growing areas, municipalities have started to rely more on involuntary annexations -- those forced on property owners -- to expand boundaries and attract new business.

Most of the feuds over involuntary annexations, like the one in southwest Clay, center on two issues: fairness and money.

City leaders say it's unfair to allow residents in southwest Clay, who live just outside Carmel's boundaries, to benefit from the roads, police protection and parks the city provides without paying for those services.

Southwest Clay residents counter that they don't rely on Carmel for services but instead are served by the county or Clay Township.

The Supreme Court justices will have to decide whether to uphold a ruling by Hamilton Superior Court Judge William Hughes. * * *

Brainard blames state lawmakers, not homeowners, for the expensive annexation battles that are becoming more prevalent in Indiana.

"It's not the fault of the people who live outside of the city limits. It's the legislature's fault for not fixing a 19th-century statute that doesn't work," he said. "It's not fair and it's not equitable for the people inside the city limits who are subsidizing the people who live outside."

State lawmakers are considering whether to establish a special committee to look at the issue.

Here is a list of the many earlier ILB entries on Carmel annexation.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 8, 2007 08:21 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions