The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court’s decision to allow Carmel’s annexation of a small community in Clay Township known as Home Place to move forward.
The lengthy battle between the city and residents of the 1,017-acre unincorporated area of Clay Township centered at 106th Street and College Avenue started in 2004 when Carmel voted to include the community in the city's boundaries.
A majority of the 2,200 households of Home Place objected to the annexation and filed a lawsuit to prevent it. In 2005, Hamilton County Superior Judge William Hughes ruled in favor of the property owners, saying Carmel didn’t prove it could financially afford to annex the area.
But, in 2007, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed that decision. The Indiana Supreme Court declined to hear the case and sent it back to the trial court for further review.
Both parties agreed to postpone proceedings until the end of 2015, and the case returned to court in April 2016.
In June 2016, Special Judge Matthew Kincaid ruled that Home Place residents did not prove all the elements necessary to prevent the annexation. The residents needed to prove that they received certain services, such as police and fire protection and street maintenance, without the help of the municipality trying to annex the land.
They also are required by state law to show that the annexation would have “a significant financial impact” on residents and that it is opposed by at least 65 percent of the property owners.
Kincaid sided with Home Place residents on most of the elements, but agreed with Carmel when it came to who provides fire protection services. Clay Township technically provides the service, but does so by contracting with the Carmel Fire Department.
The residents argued that it’s still the township’s responsibility, but the city refuted that argument by saying Carmel firefighters are the ones responding to incidents in Home Place.
Because the residents did not prove all of the necessary elements, Kincaid ruled in favor of Carmel. Home Place residents appealed the decision, but the appellate court affirmed the ruling in an opinion issued Tuesday.
“The trial court did not err in using a straightforward factual analysis in making its determination, and it correctly found that landowners failed to prove that fire protection was being adequately furnished by a provider other than Carmel,” the opinion stated.
Matt Milam, who has been leading the residential group opposed to the annexation, said neighbors will have a meeting in November to determine whether to appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court.
“From working with these people for about 15 years, my gut feeling is they will want to appeal to the Supreme Court,” Milam said.