Testimony heard on proposed bill to ban forced annexation

Photo Supplied / Indiana Statehouse

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WOWO) – A bill that would band involuntary annexation in Indiana was heard by the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee on Wednesday.

The bill cracks down on cities that annex large sections of land to obtain the property tax revenue of the land. The controversial practice of forced annexation was addressed by the Indiana State Senate in 2015.

The Senate Bill 94 would further the efforts of the 2015 bill. It will require cities or towns to obtain signatures of at least 51 percent of landowners or more than 75 percent in assessed valuation of the land to annex it according to the Journal Gazette.

Currently citizens sign petitions to stop an annexation of their properties.  Presently 51 percent of landowners are needed to sign a petition to send it to court for review.  However, as long as there is a valid fiscal plan, the annexation can still be approved.  The new bill would eliminate that process. Also, currently, if 65 percent protest the annexation, the proposed annexation is dropped.

Bill 94 will also void any waivers that were signed by purchasers of land agreeing not to contest any future annexation of their property.

Republican Senator Phil Boots of Crawfordsville supports the legislation and says “what this represents is democracy.”  He mentions that citizens have fought annexations in the past successfully, however it cost them their legal fees.

Some feel that the bill passed in 2015 hasn’t had enough time to work and that it created a reasonable balance between the abilities of cities to grow and property owner’s rights.  Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for Fort Wayne, Stephanie Crandall, opposes the bill stating “How can cities grow when the tax revenue pie is preset and it becomes a zero sum game?”

Boots says the 2015 bill helped, but says cities and towns are still favored.

 

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