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Town of Zionsville v. Town of Whitestown

Court of Appeals of Indiana

June 2, 2015

Town of Zionsville, Indiana, Appellant-Defendant,
Town of Whitestown, Indiana, and Angel Badillo, Appellee-Plaintiff

Appeal from the Boone Superior Court. The Honorable Rebecca M. McClure. Cause No. 06D02-1406-PL-64.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: Nicholas K. Kile, Mark J. Crandley, Barnes & Thornburg LLP, Indianapolis, Indiana.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: Stephen C. Unger, Paul D. Vink, Bradley M. Dick, Bose McKinney & Evans LLP, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Bailey, Judge. Robb, J., and Brown, J., concur.


Page 1145

Bailey, Judge.

Case Summary

[¶1] The Town of Zionsville (" Zionsville" ) appeals the entry of summary judgment against it and in favor of the Town of Whitestown and Angel Badillo (collectively, " Whitestown" ) with respect to the parties' claims and counterclaims concerning 1) Zionsville's proposed reorganization with Perry Township, in Boone County, and 2) Whitestown's proposed annexation of portions of Perry Township.

[¶2] Zionsville's appeal presents novel questions concerning the construction of numerous provisions of the Indiana Government Modernization Act of 2006 (" the Act" ), see Ind. Code § 36-1.5-1-1 et seq., and how provisions of the Act operate in conjunction with other statutes that regulate the operation of local governments in Indiana. The trial court concluded at summary judgment that, even with the Act's significant liberalization of the rules concerning reorganization and territorial boundary-drawing at the level of local government, Zionsville cannot " leap-frog" Whitestown in an effort to reorganize with portions of Perry Township which are not contiguous with Zionsville. Appellees' Br. at 1.

[¶3] Zionsville appeals. We reverse and remand.


[¶4] Zionsville presents for our review several issues, which we present as the single issue of whether the trial court erred when it granted summary judgment

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for Whitestown on its claims and on Zionsville's counterclaims.[1]

Facts and Procedural History

[¶5] In 2010, Zionsville reorganized with two townships in Boone County, Eagle Township and Union Township (" the 2010 Reorganization" ). Zionsville's town boundaries were entirely within Eagle Township prior to the reorganization. The 2010 Reorganization resulted in the dissolution of the separate township governments of Eagle and Union. All government functions previously carried out by the townships were consolidated into Zionsville's governmental bodies, and portions of the territory previously held by the townships were absorbed into Zionsville.

[¶6] At the time of the 2010 Reorganization, portions of Whitestown were in Eagle Township. Other portions of Whitestown were in Perry Township, which shared a border with the southwest corner of Eagle Township, and still other portions lay in Worth Township. See Appellees' Br. at 7.

[¶7] In 2013, Whitestown adopted an ordinance to annex a portion of land in Perry Township, which was to be used as a home for Whitestown's planned Waste Water Treatment Plant (" the 2013 Annexation" ). A remonstrance was filed and the case is presently pending before this Court. See Docket for Ind.Ct.App. Cause No. 29A05-1409-MI-00437.

[¶8] On April 18, 2014, Perry Township adopted a resolution to consider plans to reorganize with Zionsville. On April, 21, 2014, Zionsville also adopted a similar resolution.

[¶9] On April 22, 2014, one day after Zionsville adopted its resolution, Whitestown introduced four proposed annexation ordinances for territory within Perry Township, and for territory within the boundaries of Eagle Township that Zionsville had not included in the 2010 Reorganization (" the 2014 Ordinances" ). All of the territory sought to be annexed under the 2014 Ordinances was also within the scope of territory to be incorporated in Zionsville under the 2014 Zionsville Plan. Appellees' Br. at 7.

[¶10] On May 20, 2014, Zionsville and Perry Township each adopted an identical plan for reorganization (" the 2014 Zionsville Plan," " the 2014 Plan," or " the plan" ). The plan would reorganize Perry Township's government with that of Zionsville. Perry Township's government would cease to exist, and all township government functions and offices would be incorporated into those of Zionsville.

[¶11] As to the territorial scope of the 2014 Zionsville Plan, all of the land included within Perry Township but outside of Whitestown--including territory subject to the 2013 Annexation--would be incorporated into Zionsville. Further, the 2014 Zionsville Plan included provisions that would redraw the existing boundaries of Zionsville to include portions of land that had previously been part of Eagle Township prior to the 2010 Reorganization, but which had not been included in that reorganization. In sum, then, the 2014 Plan would incorporate into Zionsville all the territory encompassed by the 2014 Ordinances adopted by Whitestown, as well as the remainder of Perry Township.

[¶12] None of the portions of Perry Township that the 2014 Zionsville Plan identified as being part of a reorganized Zionsville included land physically adjacent to territory that had been incorporated

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into Zionsville in the 2010 Reorganization. Zionsville, however, had been providing township services within Whitestown throughout the geographic areas that previously belonged to Eagle Township, up to the boundary between Perry and Eagle Townships.

[¶13] On June 24, 2014, Whitestown filed suit against Zionsville, challenging the validity of the 2014 Zionvsille Plan and seeking a declaratory judgment invalidating the Plan. Zionsville answered and filed a counterclaim, contending that Whitestown lacked authority to pursue its annexation plans as reflected in the 2014 Ordinances, which had been made available for public comment.[2] Whitestown and Zionsville filed cross-motions for summary judgment, which proceeded to a hearing on September 9, 2014.

[¶14] On October 7, 2014, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Whitestown, concluding that the 2014 Zionsville Plan was contrary to the provisions of and therefore was not authorized by the Act. The court also concluded that, contrary to Zionsville's counterclaim, Whitestown had the necessary statutory authority to pursue its annexation plans. Zionsville sought a stay of the trial court's order pending appeal, which the trial court denied on October 9, 2014.

[¶15] This appeal ensued.[3]

Discussion and Decision

Standard of Review

[¶16] This case comes to us on appeal from the trial court's order granting summary judgment in Whitestown's favor upon cross-motions for summary judgment. On appellate review of an entry of summary judgment, we use the same standard as that used by the trial court. Bushong v. Williamson, 790 N.E.2d 467, 473 (Ind. 2003). Summary judgment is appropriate only when the designated evidence establishes that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Ind. Trial Rule 56(C). We construe all facts and inferences therefrom in favor of the non-moving party. Bushong, 790 N.E.2d at 473. We limit our review of factual matters to the materials the parties designated to the trial court. Id.

[¶17] A trial court's entry of summary judgment comes " clothed with a presumption of validity." Kader v. State, 1 N.E.3d 717, 725-26 (Ind.Ct.App. 2013) (citations and quotation marks omitted). Where, as here, the trial court enters its summary judgment order in the form of findings and conclusions, these offer valuable insight into the trial court's rationale for its decision and facilitate our review. Spudich v. NIPSCO, 745 N.E.2d 281, 290 (Ind.Ct.App. 2001), trans. denied. A trial court's findings and conclusions at summary judgment do not limit our review of the order, and we may affirm a grant of summary judgment upon any theory supported by the evidence. Id.

[¶18] That an appeal is from cross-motions for summary judgment does not alter our standard of review. Mahan v. Amer. Standard Ins. Co., 862 N.E.2d 669, 676 (Ind.Ct.App. 2007), trans. denied. We consider each motion separately to determine whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id.

[¶19] Where, as here, the core of the dispute centers upon the interpretation of statutes, we use established rules of statutory

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construction " to give effect to the General Assembly's intent." Ballard v. Lewis, 8 N.E.3d 190, 194 (Ind. 2014). The best evidence of the legislature's intent is the statutory text. Adams v. State, 960 N.E.2d 793, 798 (Ind. 2012). When a statute's language is clear and unambiguous, there is " no ...

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