Appeal from the Hancock Circuit Court. The Honorable Richard D. Culver, Judge. Cause No. 30C01-1310-MI-1832.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: Alex C. Intermill, Curtis T. Jones, Jonathan W. Hughes, Bose McKinney & Evans LLP, Indianapolis, Indiana.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: Stephen R. Buschmann, Thrasher Buschmann & Voelkel, P.C., Indianapolis, Indiana.
Baker, Judge. May, J., and Mathias, J., concur.
[¶1] The Town of Fortville (Fortville) appeals the trial court's order denying annexation in favor of certain Fortville annexation territory landowners (the Remonstrators). Fortville argues that the trial court erred when it failed to apply substantial deference to Fortville's adoption of an annexation ordinance--a legislative function delegated to the Fortville Town Council by the Indiana General Assembly. Fortville also contends that the trial court erred when it found that Fortville had not presented evidence that the area to be annexed was needed and can be used for Fortville's development in the near future. Finding that the trial court erred by applying the wrong evidentiary standard when analyzing Fortville's need to annex the area and plans for the areas development, we reverse and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
[¶2] On March 28, 2013, Fortville adopted Resolution 2013-3A, which proposed to annex 5,944 acres of land adjacent to Fortville. On July 14, 2014, following notice and a public hearing on the matter, Fortville adopted Ordinance 2013-3A, which proposed to annex a reduced area of 644 acres of land (the Annexation). The Annexation was surrounded on three sides by Fortville's boundaries. In addition, Fortville adopted a fiscal plan and policy for the Annexation.
[¶3] On October 11, 2013, the Remonstrators--who consist of ninety-three percent of the owners of the parcels in the Annexation--filed their petition remonstrating against the proposed annexation. On October 30, 2013, Fortville filed an answer and affirmative defenses to the petition remonstrating against the proposed annexation.
[¶4] On July 11, 2014--prior to trial--the parties filed their joint stipulations and entry. The parties stipulated as follows:
1. Fortville is not asserting that the annexation territory meets the requirements of Ind. Code § 36-4-3-13(b).
2. Fortville satisfied the requirements of Ind. Code § 36-4-3-13(c)(1). Specifically, the parties stipulate that the annexation territory is at least one-fourth (1/4) contiguous to Fortville. Fortville is therefore not required to establish the contiguity element at trial.
3. The parties disagree whether the annexation territory " is needed and can be used by the municipality for its development in the reasonably near future." See ...