A bill that would have dramatically changed Indiana’s annexation process was one of the early casualties of the 2017 session, but Indiana Farm Bureau is hoping at least some of its provisions are revived in 2018.
“Farm Bureau has been talking about annexation for a long time, and now other people are too,” said Katrina Hall, INFB’s public policy director.
In setting the organization’s legislative priorities for 2018, the INFB board of directors called for the General Assembly to limit annexation by eliminating economic development loopholes and by consistently limiting waivers.
Waivers are agreements that cut off annexation remonstrance (or formal protest) rights, and because these agreements are often made by property developers, property owners sometimes don’t even know anything about them. This was the case in a proposed annexation in Bloomington, where the waivers were decades old and had not been recorded. In 2017, the General Assembly put a stop to Bloomington’s annexation for five years.
Making sure that annexations are handled in a manner that is fair to the landowners and not just the municipality is a big issue for farmers and Farm Bureau because it’s important that landowners have a say in determining the long-term impact on their property – and in who can tax and zone that property, Hall said.
Changing the state’s annexation laws has been a step-by-step process for Farm Bureau. In 2015, the General Assembly passed a Farm Bureau-supported bill that changed the law so that an annexation is stopped when 65 percent of the landowners in the proposed annexation area sign a remonstrance petition. Prior to these reforms, the only viable way for landowners to fight a proposed annexation was to go to court and pay the costs of that court battle.