PRESS RELEASE: Indiana Court of Appeals Rules for City and Rejects Early Appeal by Remonstrators

The following was shared with the Bloomingtonian:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 24, 2023

For more information, please contact:

Beth Cate, Corporation Counsel, Legal Department

[email protected] or 812-349-3426

Andrew Krebbs, Communications Director, Office of the Mayor

[email protected] or 812-349-3406

Indiana Court of Appeals Rules for City and Rejects Early Appeal by Remonstrators 

Bloomington, Ind.On Friday, May 19, a three-judge panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals unanimously denied county residents opposing annexation an early appeal of the trial court’s ruling that they cannot have a second 90-day remonstrance period. This decision affirms the path for the annexation trial to proceed; it is scheduled from November 13 through 16 of this year.

In March 2022, remonstrators in annexation Areas 1A and 1B filed a suit challenging Bloomington’s annexation of those areas. As part of their lawsuit, remonstrators claimed that the Court should grant them a second 90-day period to collect remonstrance signatures, beyond the original three-month remonstrance period that ran from October 2021 through January 2022. 

On Friday, February 24, Judge Nikirk agreed with the City and rejected the remonstrators’ request, finding “that COVID-19 did not prevent the filing of remonstrance petitions with the Monroe County Auditor.”  Remonstrators then asked the state appeals court to immediately review Judge Nikirk’s order denying a 90-day extension. The City opposed an immediate appeal and the potential further delay of the annexation trial. In its brief order, the Indiana Court of Appeals unanimously rejected an immediate appeal. The City is preparing to go to trial this fall.   

The appeals court’s order, the parties’ submissions to that court, and Judge Nikirk’s February 24 order are available online at: bloomington.in.gov/annex

“The City is pleased and looks forward to demonstrating at November’s trial that annexation is appropriate for areas 1A and 1B,” said Mayor John Hamilton. “I thank the excellent City attorneys and outside counsel for their ongoing outstanding work. The City also intends to prevail in a separate determination that the General Assembly unconstitutionally interfered with Bloomington’s annexation for a second time.”

Bloomington initiated its annexation early in 2017 and would have completed the legal process during 2017. However, the General Assembly unlawfully suspended the annexation through the 2017 budget bill. The state supreme court declared that suspension unconstitutional special legislation in 2020.

In 2019, while Bloomington was awaiting the outcome of what was expected to be a successful case for the City, the legislature took advantage of the time it bought. They interceded again, passing a law that voided most of Bloomington’s sewer extension contracts. Based on numbers published by Monroe County Auditor Cathy Smith, as a result of the unlawful 2019 legislation, Bloomington went from automatically annexing five of seven designated areas, to falling short in five of the seven areas. The legislature was only able to use the 2019 law to nullify sewer extension contracts because it unconstitutionally delayed Bloomington’s annexation in 2017. The City is challenging the 2019 law in a separate lawsuit. Learn more at: https://bton.in/FDQUW

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