Excellent breaking news for supporters of property rights and the right to self-determination, as a Judge has ruled against Carmel's effort to forcibly annex the Southwest Clay area. From the Indy Star's initial report:
Hamilton Superior Court Judge William Hughes issued the ruling this morning in favor of four petitioners fighting annexation of the area. The ruling comes after a three-day trial at the end of February.
Hughes found that Carmel had not met its legal burden to prove annexation is in the best interests of Southwest Clay Township residents. Hughes is the same judge who, in October, blocked Carmel's attempt to annex Home Place, the 1.4-square-mile community just east of southwest Clay Township. The city is appealing that decision.
Of course the City of Carmel is appealing. These are tax-and-spend Republicans at work!
Residents of Geist have been watching for developments in this case, as Fishers had shelved its' plan to forcibly annex Geist neighborhoods until they learned the results of the Carmel-SW Clay case.It is likely that the Fishers Town Council will now either give up on its forced annexation plans or further shelve the item to await the outcome of Carmel's appeal. That could be a very lengthy wait.
Here are some details from Tom Britt's report on atgeist.com:
First, SW Clay already receives adequate police and fire protection. The legal issue that arose was whether or not SW Clay “provides” their own fire protection since they hire Carmel firefighters and own the firestation that they use. In their case, just as is the case with Geist homeowners, Clay Township actually built the firestation and has a contract with Carmel to provide firefighters and staffing. The judge ruled in favor of SW Clay and agreed that through this relationship, they were already providing this service.
Secondly, the court agreed with landowners that the tax impact would be “significant”. In this case, SW Clay residents were looking at a 21.4% property tax increase; the same type of increase Geist property owners would be looking at. By pulling tax records of the remonstrators, Carmel tried to show that the residents could afford a 21.4% increase. However, the judge ruled that it didn’t matter if they could afford it or not, it was significant and that was all that mattered.
Thirdly, Judge Hughes did not see this annexation in the best interests of SW Clay landowners. Remember, in order for a municipality to overcome a remonstration, they have the burden of proof that the annexation is in the best interests of the residents. He cited that Carmel had not provided sewer or water to the entire territory, and therefore this was not in the SW Clay residents’ best interests.
Obviously these forced annexations aren't in the best interests of those being subjected to it. In business, this is the equivalent of a hostile takeover, or in foreign policy, an act of war. When people believe being added to a municipality is in their best interest, they voluntarily petition to be annexed.
Let's hope to appeal is summarily dismissed.