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February 12, 2014

Judge rules Lapel annexation illegal

ANDERSON — Lapel's annexation of 57 acres in 2013 didn't adhere to state law, a judge has decided, making the land grab invalid.

Hamilton County Judge J. Richard Campbell issued his ruling in the case of the city of Anderson against the town of Lapel. He denied Lapel’s motion that Anderson had no right to challenge the annexation of about 57 acres. Campbell also granted Anderson’s motion to declare the annexation illegal.

In his ruling Campbell noted that Anderson claimed the annexation was illegal because the move violated Indiana’s annexation ordinance, which states the new land must share at least one-eighth of a boundary with existing land. The land Lapel annexed was only one-eighty-third contiguous to Lapel’s existing land.

“In deciding Anderson’s standing,” Campbell wrote. “This court cannot ignore the illegality of Lapel’s actions. There is no question that Lapel did not comply with the one-eighth contiguity requirement.”

He went on to write that Lapel never defended its actions as being legal. The town’s only argument was that Anderson had no standing to challenge them because the annexation was “super-voluntary,” meaning all home owners in the annexed area wanted to be in Lapel, and the annexation was three miles away from Anderson city limits and outside the buffer zone.

Even if the annexation was illegal, Lapel’s claim was Anderson couldn’t challenge it either way. But Campbell ruled that under the Declaratory Judgment Act and the Home Rule Act the city of Anderson did have standing because Lapel’s annexation hampered the city’s ability to grow.

Future growth is something very important to Anderson Mayor Kevin Smith. He called the ruling a "breath of hope" for Anderson and its residents. He said the future of the city's interstate growth is now in the hands of the Anderson City Council.

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