The long legal battle between the city of Carmel and the residents of the small community in Clay Township known as Home Place appears to be over.
Concerned Citizens for Home Place, or CCHP, an organization founded in 2004 to contest Carmel’s plan to annex Home Place, announced Monday that it has agreed to drop the fight.
The decision comes less than a month after the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling to allow Carmel’s annexation.
CCHP has reached “an agreement with Carmel whereby the organization will no longer dispute the annexation allowing Carmel to annex the Home Place district effective January 2018,” CCHP President Matt Milam said in a written statement.
Home Place encompasses a 1,017-acre unincorporated area of Clay Township between Indianapolis and Carmel, centered at 106th Street and College Avenue. It was established in 1832 as a farming community.
"We are pleased with today’s agreement with some of the residents of Home Place to move forward with the annexation of this area into the City of Carmel," Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said in written comments. "Home Place is an urbanized area and should be part of the City of Carmel. We are one community with one public school system, one library system, a fire department that serves both the city and the township --everyone should be part of the community, the City of Carmel."
The legal battle between Carmel and Home Place 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.
Milam said after the latest ruling that he thought neighbors would be willing to appeal the case to the Indiana Supreme Court, but that turned out not to be the case. The decision followed a district meeting CCHP conducted for Home Place property owners.
“We have successfully protected our district and its property owners from the forced annexation of Carmel for nearly fifteen years,” Milam said. “Regrettably, our legal efforts and options have run their course, resulting in court decisions favoring Carmel.”
Milam said the CCHP would remain “proactively available to the district to help assist potential changes and property owner interests if annexed.”
He said residents are still concerned about the annexation process and how Home Place will be represented in Carmel’s elected government.