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J. Sebastian Smelko Comments on the Resulting Annexation Headaches When Municipal Growth Clashes with Property Owners


Following a recent BGD blog post on involuntary annexation, BGD attorney J. Sebastian Smelko commented on the annexation headaches that result when municipal growth clashes with property owners.

The Indiana Lawyer column discusses Hancock County’s recent annexation battle, like many others, where the municipality feels they need to get control of a property before having to offer up any development plans.

In this case, the town of Fortville passed an ordinance in July 2013 proposing the annexation of a mostly agricultural area. Property owners fought back at trial saying Fortville had no specific plans for developing the proposed annexation territory and no real estate developers had expressed any interest in the land. Fortville countered this claim saying local growth would be prompted by the growth in neighboring Fishers. The judge ultimately ruled in favor of the property owners when concluding that Fortville failed to meet the statutory requirement that the annexed section be developed in the “reasonably near future.”

In response to several municipalities losing cases for lacking predetermined development plans, Smelko cautioned against requiring cities and towns to have these plans ready to launch once an annexation is complete. He says municipalities should have the ability to position themselves for economic development, and annexation is part of that positioning. Furthermore, Smelko clarified that communication and education of decision makers needs to take place before any legislation takes away a necessary and important tool for economic development for such cities and towns.

In summary, Smelko acknowledges that property owner frustrations can arises when utilities, subdivisions or businesses are not produced quickly. However, the municipality’s ability to respond to developers’ needs is reduced when communities are forced to provide immediate plans for the areas to be annexed.

Read “When municipal growth clashes with property owners, the result is annexation headaches” in its entirety on the Indiana Lawyer website.

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