Latest filing in Bloomington annexation case: Remonstrators ask for more time due to ”pestilence”

In a June 6 court filing, remonstrators in Bloomington annexation Area 1A and Area 1B have argued for additional time to collect remonstrance signatures against the city council’s annexation ordinances, which were approved in September 2021.

The remonstrators’ basic argument stems from the fact that the COIVD-19 pandemic had caused Indiana governor Eric Holcomb to issue an emergency health order, which covered the time for signature collection.

The original 90-day window for remonstrance closed on Jan. 6 of this year (2022).

Area 1A is just west of Bloomington. Area 1B lies to the southwest.

The June 6 court papers include a response to the city of Bloomington’s previous motion  on the same topic. Bloomington asked the court to disallow any extension of time to collect more signatures.

The lawsuit involving Area 1A and Area 1B is separate from the lawsuits initiated by Bloomington, one for each annexation area, filed against various parties, based in part on the idea that many of the remonstrance signatures come from property owners who had previously waived their right to remonstrate.

In Area 1A and Area 1B, property owners in each area separately achieved remonstrance signatures from more than 50 percent of property owners, but less than 65 percent, according to the county auditor’s certified results. If signatures from 65 percent of property owners had been collected, that would have meant an automatic stop to Bloomington’s annexations of the two areas, without review by a court. But achieving 50 percent meant that Bloomington’s annexation ordinances for those areas were able to get a review by a court.

The idea of an extension for more time to collect signatures is not new—it was a part of the original complaint filed by remonstrators in mid-March.

But now, the arguments on either side for and against an extension are starting to get fleshed out. A hearing is currently set for July 29 in front of judge Nathan Nikirk. Continue reading “Latest filing in Bloomington annexation case: Remonstrators ask for more time due to ”pestilence””

Bloomington launches salvo of lawsuits over remonstrance waivers, one for each area

On Tuesday, Bloomington filed seven separate lawsuits as part of its effort to complete the annexations of seven different territories into the city—one lawsuit for each annexation area.

image of the title page from one of Bloomington's lawsuits

All seven lawsuits appear to be essentially identical. They focus on the question of remonstrance waivers.

Such waivers are legal documents signed by a property owner giving up the right to remonstrate against annexation, in consideration of the ability to purchase sewer service from the city.

The city of Bloomington’s legal position is that any such waivers are valid, despite a 2019 law that invalidated all such waivers signed before July 1, 2003.

The lawsuits filed on Tuesday were expected. And their disposition will be decisive for the remonstrance efforts that were made in each of the seven areas.

The reason the status of the waivers is crucial is that they make the difference between completely successful and completely failed remonstrance efforts in some areas, based on the county auditor’s certified results. Continue reading “Bloomington launches salvo of lawsuits over remonstrance waivers, one for each area”

Court action filed by property owners in two territories opposing Bloomington’s annexations

A couple dozen property tax payers spread across two of Bloomington’s annexation areas have now filed a legal action  under state law to void the ordinances that were enacted by the city council in the third week of September 2021.

The complaint, filed in the Monroe circuit court on Wednesday afternoon, lists 24 plaintiffs.

Listed as defendants are Bloomington’s city council, the city of Bloomington, John Hamilton in his official capacity as mayor of Bloomington, and Catherine Smith in her official capacity as auditor of Monroe County.

The two areas that will now get scrutiny by a circuit court judge are 1A just to the west of Bloomington and Area 1B to the southwest.

The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from the Bunger & Robertson law firm. Continue reading “Court action filed by property owners in two territories opposing Bloomington’s annexations”

5 of 7 Bloomington annexation attempts thwarted, according to county auditor’s certified results

Late Wednesday afternoon, Monroe County auditor Cathy Smith released her final certified results of the remonstrance petitions for seven separate annexation efforts by the city of Bloomington.

Based on the auditor’s certified results, remonstrance efforts in five of the seven areas have succeeded outright, because more than 65 percent of property owners signed a remonstrance petition.

More than 65 percent of property owners signed remonstrance petitions in the following territories: Area 1C (71.43 percent); Area 2 (71.98 percent); Area 3 (66.67 percent); Area 4 (70.79 percent); and Area 5 (66.67 percent).

Bloomington’s annexation ordinances for those five areas, enacted by the city council in the third week of September 2021,  are automatically stopped under the auditor’s certified results.

But the city of Bloomington will almost certainly challenge the results, because those percentages depend on discounting some of the remonstrance waivers attached to the properties. Continue reading “5 of 7 Bloomington annexation attempts thwarted, according to county auditor’s certified results”

Annexation update: Bloomington’s count of signatures points to potential success of some remonstrance efforts, looming litigation

Property owners in three so-called island areas inside Bloomington, which Bloomington’s city council decided to annex last year, might have mounted successful remonstrance efforts that will leave nothing to argue about in court.

It’s far from settled, but that’s one takeaway from the numbers provided in a city of Bloomington news release that was issued on Tuesday morning.

The final tally from Monroe County’s side of the remonstration process is not required until around the end of February.

Even the numbers in Bloomington’s Tuesday news release can’t be considered the city’s final view of how many valid remonstrance signatures have been submitted. An early version of the city’s news release included a mistake that was chalked up to a typo in a spreadsheet formula.

The news release includes numbers of remonstrance signatures the city has received from the Monroe County auditor. Also included is a breakdown of how many signatures are subject to a remonstrance waiver older than 15 years, and how many are subject to a remonstrance waiver less than 15 years old. A remonstrance waiver is a signed document that gives up the right of a property owner to remonstrate against annexation, in exchange for the ability to hook up to the city’s sewer system. Continue reading “Annexation update: Bloomington’s count of signatures points to potential success of some remonstrance efforts, looming litigation”

Bloomington annexation remonstrance final raw tally: Automatic stop in play for six of seven areas, court review now possible for one

When the Jan. 6 deadline passed for submitting remonstrance petitions against Bloomington’s annexation ordinances, the Monroe County auditor’s office was able to provide only a preliminary raw tally of signatures.

That’s because several signatures were submitted on the final day.

Based on the now final but still raw tally, every area but one would have enough signatures to meet the 65-percent threshold that automatically blocks Bloomington’s annexation attempt.

That’s the same basic picture that was already known on the final day of remonstrance.

What’s different is the status of Area 1B, which by the auditor’s count at the time had not yet achieved even a lower threshold of 50-percent. That’s a benchmark that doesn’t stop the annexation but does ensure that a judge reviews a city’s annexation ordinance.

Adding in the final day’s count has bumped the total for Area 1B past the 50-percent threshold.

But it’s still short of the 65-percent mark. The area has 2,102 unique owners, of which 1,342 signed a remonstrance petition. That’s 63.8 percent. The 65-percent threshold would have required signatures from 25 more property owners. Continue reading “Bloomington annexation remonstrance final raw tally: Automatic stop in play for six of seven areas, court review now possible for one”

Annexation fight: Strong signature counts in all areas as deadline passes, wait starts for final tally

The close of the business day on Thursday marked an end to the 90-day period of remonstration against the decision by Bloomington’s city council in late September 2021 to annex seven separate territories into the city.

Remonstration means signing an official petition in opposition to annexation. On Thursday, the Monroe County auditor’s office had fresh signature numbers to report, as of Wednesday.

Based on those numbers, property owners in six of seven areas have a decent chance of blocking Bloomington’s annexation effort outright. In those six areas, more than 65 percent of property owners have submitted signatures. That’s the key threshold.

Here’s the breakdown: Area 1-A (73.83%); Area 1-B( 56.90%); Area 1-C (87.62%); Area 2 (80.44%); Area 3 (75.25%); Area 4 (71.74%); and Area 5 (68.13%)

The numbers reported on Thursday do not reflect the county auditor’s final determination. Any number of reasons could still cause the auditor, on further review, to conclude that a signature is not valid. Among the reasons: The signature a duplicate.

The auditor could also conclude that a remonstrance waiver attached to a property in connection with sewer service is valid, which would eliminate the signature from the count.

About the timeline for final counts, Monroe County auditor Cathy Smith told The B Square: “We know it won’t be any sooner than the third week of January.” That depends in part on how long some final back-and-forth takes between the auditor’s office and Bloomington’s city attorney.

But Smith said she would love for the signature validation process for all the areas to be wrapped up by the end of January. If not, she would like it to be done by mid-February. Continue reading “Annexation fight: Strong signature counts in all areas as deadline passes, wait starts for final tally”

A look ahead to 2022: Bloomington area local government stories

North Walnut Street Lamp on Christmas Eve

Last year’s lead art for The B Square’s look ahead to 2021 featured this caption: “These numerals began life as a photograph of the sidewalk around the courthouse square in downtown Bloomington, where the crows like to crap. It was that kind of year.”

Arguably a worse year was 2021. So this year’s art includes an actual crow and a built-in sense of foreboding. Is that kid going to land his jump over the crow to get to next year?

Here’s an incomplete roundup of stories to watch in 2022 Continue reading “A look ahead to 2022: Bloomington area local government stories”

So-called ‘islands’ making strong effort against Bloomington annexations, as Jan. 6 deadline looms

After Bloomington’s city council voted in late September to annex seven separate territories into the city, and the required newspaper notification was published, that started a 90-day period for property owners to remonstrate.

Remonstration means signing an official petition in opposition to annexation.

The 90-day window for submitting a signed remonstrance petition to the county auditor closes on Jan. 6.

With just a month left in the remonstrance period, the possible outcome for remonstration efforts in some of the annexation areas is starting to come into better focus.

Organizers of efforts to collect signatures in the three so-called ‘island’ annexation areas submitted a big pile of signatures to the county auditor this past week.

Signatures from other areas have also been coming in. Across all annexation areas a total of around 1,700 remonstrance signatures have been submitted so far, according to the county auditor’s office.

Each annexation area has its own remonstrance process. Remonstration could succeed in one area, stopping the annexation of that single area, but fail in a different area, allowing the annexation of the different area.

The picture is not yet clear for any of the annexation areas. And it will probably stay blurry until after the Jan. 6 deadline is past. Continue reading “So-called ‘islands’ making strong effort against Bloomington annexations, as Jan. 6 deadline looms”

Annexation notebook: Bloomington would get a bit less diverse if all additions of territory go through

Thanksgiving marked roughly the halfway point in the 90-day window for remonstrance petitions to be filed against Bloomington’s planned annexations.

That means the Jan. 6, 2022 deadline for remonstration against Bloomington’s annexations is now on the near horizon. In the next couple of weeks, many of the multi-signature sheets that remonstrators have obtained from the county auditor will likely be submitted.

So the potential for successful remonstrance should soon start to become clearer for any of the seven areas that Bloomington wants to annex.

In the meantime, The B Square used results from the 2020 Census, to estimate the changes that Bloomington could see in its racial and ethnic mix, if all of the annexations were to go through as approved by the city council.

If all annexations go through, Bloomington’s non-Hispanic white population would, based on B Square estimates, increase by about one percentage point. The non-Hispanic Black population would see a quarter-point decrease, the same decrease as the Hispanic population overall. And Bloomington’s non-Hispanic Asian population would see a three-quarter-point decrease, if all annexations go through.

Continue reading “Annexation notebook: Bloomington would get a bit less diverse if all additions of territory go through”