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Judge postpones the Bloomington annexation trial until further notice



Bloomington, Indiana – According to the request of protesters opposed to the annexation in areas 1A and 1B, Lawrence County Special Judge Nathan Nikirk announced that the trial for the Bloomington annexation issue will not proceed as scheduled in November.

Bloomington’s second annexation lawsuit against the State of Indiana and Monroe County Auditor Catherine Smith, whom the city claims counted illegitimate petitions in accordance with the 2019 statute, is focused on the 2019 law at the center of the delay. According to the city of Bloomington, annexation is the process through which cities grow by incorporating formerly unincorporated portions of a county.

In 2017, Bloomington began annexing seven neighborhoods. By obtaining signatures from at least 65% of their landowners, five of these areas—the ones at the center of the second lawsuit—were able to revoke the annexation. The city of Bloomington contends in that complaint that these actions are unconstitutional as a result of a 2019 state legislation that became effective during the city’s initial annexation attempt.

Southwest and west of the city, respectively, Areas 1A and 1B, did not achieve this standard. They obtained at least 51% of the signatures, but less than 65%, thus they could only partially halt the annexation in court. The trial for this lawsuit has recently been postponed.

The significance of the 2019 law was that it nullified any remonstrance waivers that were more than 15 years old. By agreeing to a remonstrance waiver, a person effectively waives their right to oppose annexation in exchange for getting access to city sewers.

The city claims that the instantaneous cancellation of 80% of exemptions when the law was passed had a significant enough impact on the remonstrance procedure. The city has also brought up an earlier attempt by the Indiana legislature, which led to a different lawsuit, to block Bloomington’s annexation in 2017. Even though the city won its case in 2020’s Indiana Supreme Court decision, the annexation process was postponed as a result, allowing the state to enact the 2019 statute. The remonstrators won’t have enough signatures to guarantee judicial review and won’t have a legal foundation for their five-day trial if this 2019 statute is found to be illegal. The remonstrators’ attorneys claimed that since the trial had no legal foundation, continuing it would be a waste of time and resources.

The trial will be postponed until a different litigation that is addressing the constitutional issue surrounding the legality of the annexation waivers is concluded.

The city of Bloomington disagrees with the decision to postpone the trial, arguing that doing so will prolong the annexation process, which has already dragged on for six years.

On December 10, a hearing will be held to address the constitutionality of the 2019 law.

If the city can demonstrate that annexation is in the best interest of the landowners in the proposed annexation zones, the court must order it to proceed when the standard trial is held.



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