A bill that would have dramatically changed Indiana’s annexation process was one of the early casualties of the 2017 session.
Senate Bill 381, which was supported by Farm Bureau, would have provided the county executive with an option to approve or deny an annexation, and it also would have required that the fiscal plan show the impact of the annexation on the county executive. If the county executive voted to deny the annexation, the annexation proceedings would have been “terminated.”
The bill was heard in the Senate Local Government Committee, where it was amended but then failed to pass.
“The bill faced tremendous opposition from Indiana's cities and towns,” noted Katrina Hall, INFB’s public policy director.
“We (at Farm Bureau) have been talking about annexation for a long time, and now other people are too,” she added.
Business landowners are now realizing how much an annexation adds to their bottom-line and to the restrictions placed on their operations—the same concerns farmers have been saying all along, Hall said. To combat an annexation of 10,000 acres and 15,000 people, landowners and impacted local officials around Bloomington supported changes to the sewer and water waivers that cut off annexation remonstrance rights. Waivers are generally signed by those developing their properties and in the case of Bloomington, were decades old and not recorded.
The General Assembly put a stop to Bloomington’s annexation for five years. While considered dramatic by some, it was welcome news to landowners who didn’t know their property had a waiver or those who were blocked from remonstrating due to the large number of waivers.
In 2015, the General Assembly passed legislation that made important changes that stop an annexation when 65 percent of the landowners in the proposed annexation 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.
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—in who can tax and zone that property.
“It’s all about landowners having a voice,” Hall said.