Bloomington moves to dismiss 2 of own lawsuits as legal tactic to push annexation trial ahead

Ten days ago, the city of Bloomington lost an argument in court, to move ahead with the standard judicial review of annexation for two areas west of town.

The shading on the map reflects a 1-dot-per-person plot based on the population of census blocks as measured in the 2020 decennial census.

Two days later, on Sept. 7, the city of Bloomington filed a motion to start the process to appeal the ruling of special judge Nathan Nikirk, out of Lawrence County.

Nikirk had ordered that the standard annexation trials for Area 1A and Area 1B would be delayed, until Bloomington’s related but separate litigation—over constitutional questions related to annexation waivers—is resolved.

The related constitutional litigation is actually a consolidation of seven separate lawsuits, one for each of the annexation areas.

In addition to the appeals process, the city of Bloomington has now started another procedure that could lead to faster scheduling of a standard annexation trial for the two areas. The idea is to take a step towards quick resolution of the related constitutional litigation—but just for Area 1A and Area 1B.

On Wednesday, Bloomington’s legal tactic was to file a motion to dismiss its own lawsuits for Area 1A and Area 1B, over the constitutional question of waivers.

The idea is that if the special judge Kelsey Hanlon out of Owen County were to grant Bloomington’s motion for dismissal of the Area 1A and Area 1B constitutional cases, and agrees to reconsolidate just the five remaining lawsuits, that would satisfy the condition of Nikirk’s Sept. 7 order. Continue reading “Bloomington moves to dismiss 2 of own lawsuits as legal tactic to push annexation trial ahead”

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””

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”