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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
From left: Patrick Ellis with the auditor’s office; and Area 3 property owners Darlene Stewart and Lisa Fitzgerald
Standing: Mark Furnish, Area 5 property owner. Seated in left of frame: Monroe County auditor Cathy Smith.
Area 4 property owner Susan Brackney.
From left: Deputy auditor Chris Muench; and Area 4 property owners Barbara Brinegar and Susan Brackney.
So-called ‘island’ annexation areas.
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.
Monroe County auditor Cathy Smith and Ed Ochsner (Oct. 8, 2021)
Monroe County auditor Cathy Smith, Ed Ochsner and Jean Donatiello (Oct. 8, 2021)
Monroe County auditor Cathy Smith (left) and Susan Brackney (Oct. 8, 2021)
On Friday morning, the first remonstrators against Bloomington’s annexations showed up at Monroe County courthouse.
Friday was the start to the formal petitioning process for property owners inside any of the seven areas that Bloomington wants to annex. That’s because Friday’s edition of The Herald-Times carried a public notice of the city council’s adoption of annexation ordinances.
Baker Tilly found that in Year 2, the impact on local income tax (LIT) revenue to Monroe County government would be negative $1.4 million. That’s a $866,000 bigger impact than Reedy Financial Group reported in Bloomington’s annexation fiscal plan. Reedy analyzed the impact as negative $534,694.
Van Buren Township, which forms part of the western edge of Monroe County, sits at the southwest corner of the city of Bloomington.
The township’s trustee is Rita Barrow, who has been elected to the post by Van Buren voters.
But most Van Buren Township residents can’t vote for mayor, clerk, or councilmembers in Bloomington’s municipal elections. That’s because it’s only some small areas of Van Buren, with odd geometries, that currently are included inside city boundaries.
Under a current proposal by Bloomington to annex more township territory into the city, more denizens of the township would add city residency to their resumes in 2024, and get the right to vote in city elections.
But the next Bloomington election would not come around until four years later, in November 2027.
Histogram of net increases in property taxes based on projections of Reedy Financial Group, Bloomington’s consultant.
If Bloomington’s planned annexation is successful, the city will add to its population an estimated 14,000 people, several cows, a pig or two, and at least one chicken, whose “eyes don’t work any more.”
For the hen’s owner, Susan Brackney, the longer phrase in place of a single adjective is a nicer way of describing the bird’s current abilities.
Brackney would prefer that she and the chicken not become a part of the city’s census.
But Bloomington’s annexation plan calls for Area 4, where Brackney and about 400 other people live, to become a part of the city starting on Jan. 1, 2024.
Area 4 is one of eight separate areas that Bloomington wants to annex into the city.
With an Aug. 4 public hearing on the horizon, and a city council vote that will likely come in September, some residents who oppose annexation are using the earlier part of the summer to organize their opposition.