Bloomington’s planned annexation: County hires own consultant, city clarifies map

Bloomington’s proposed annexation plan will be getting scrutiny from a financial consultant hired by Monroe County.

The red arrow indicates the Cook Group parcel that is excluded from annexation under a payment-in-lieu agreement with the City of Bloomington, but was mistakenly included in the city’s initial maps showing the proposed annexed area. [better resolution image]
At their weekly meeting on Wednesday, county commissioners approved an agreement with Baker Tilly US, for “review and analysis of the city of Bloomington’s annexation fiscal plan.”

The not-to-exceed amount for Baker Tilly’s work for the county is $50,000.

The Baker Tilly report will give county officials their own projections, independent of the city’s, for the impact of annexation on county government revenues.

Cockerill told commissioners that the expected timeline is 45 days for Baker Tilly to complete the work of reviewing and checking the fiscal analysis. That would put the county’s own analysis in hand by around mid-July.

Bloomington’s timeline for annexation calls for public hearings on August 4, with city council votes to come in September.

The eight different areas that are being considered for annexation would add 9,255 acres to Bloomington’s land area and an estimated 14,377 people to the city’s population.

On Wednesday, city officials confirmed that one of the parcels owned by Cook Group, which was shown in city maps as included in the territory to be annexed, should not have been included. That’s based on the $1.5 million payment-in-lieu-of-annexation agreement approved by the city council in 2017. Continue reading “Bloomington’s planned annexation: County hires own consultant, city clarifies map”

Bloomington’s annexation restart shows a couple of wobbles, still on steady course for Aug. 4 public hearings, September votes

At its regular meeting on Wednesday, Bloomington’s city council restarted the process, which had been suspended in 2017 by action of the state legislature, to annex eight separate areas into the city.

The re-start comes after Indiana’s Supreme Court ruled in a 3–2 split decision late last year that the state legislature’s action was unconstitutional.

The eight different areas that are being considered for annexation would add 9,255 acres to Bloomington’s land area and an estimated 14,377 people to the city’s population.

The city council’s annexation-related action on Wednesday involved one resolution for each of the eight areas to adopt its new fiscal plan, and one ordinance on the annexation itself. The ordinances were first introduced in 2017.

That meant on Wednesday, the ordinances got technical amendments to revise several mentions of dates. But no votes were taken on the ordinances as amended. Those votes are planned for September.

One wobble in the restarted process was the 6–3 outcome of the vote on the adoption of the fiscal plan for Area 7. All the other votes on Wednesday were unanimous.

Area 7 is labeled in the annexation materials as the “North Bloomington Annexation Area.” The area has been described as having more cows and chickens than people. Its estimated 115 people, spread over 896 acres, gives it a population density of 0.12 people per acre.

Dissenting on the Area 7 fiscal plan vote were Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Dave Rollo, and Susan Sandberg. Piedmont-Smith said, “I think it’s too rural.”

But it’s the final votes on the ordinances that will have an impact on whether areas are annexed. Those votes are currently scheduled for mid-September.

Councilmember Matt Flaherty said, “I don’t take my vote on on either resolutions or amendments to ordinances tonight to mean that I am in support of a particular area for annexation.” He added, “I think we’ll continue to consider kind of all aspects of this as we move forward. This is just a step in the process.”

The date for the public hearing on the ordinances is currently set for Aug. 4. Continue reading “Bloomington’s annexation restart shows a couple of wobbles, still on steady course for Aug. 4 public hearings, September votes”

Bloomington preps for annexation restart on May 19, will assume remonstrance waivers voided by state legislature are valid

At a work session held on Friday, Bloomington’s city council got a briefing from mayor John Hamilton’s administration on the restart of an annexation process that was launched in 2017.

Image links to high resolution .pdf file.

The process was stopped that year when the state legislature enacted a law that was found by Indiana’s Supreme Court in late 2020 to be unconstitutional. That cleared the way for Bloomington’s renewed annexation effort.

Friday’s work session provided a couple of newsy bits.

First, based on the work session discussion, Bloomington will be proceeding with the process on the assumption that some remonstrance waivers are still valid, even though they were declared void by a state law enacted by the state legislature in 2019.

The new 2019 law says that a few different categories of annexation waivers are not valid, which means that more property owners would be eligible to remonstrate against a proposed annexation.

At the work session, Bloomington’s corporation counsel Philippa Guthrie said about the remonstrance waivers voided by the state legislature: “They were contracts signed by individuals with the city, in exchange for getting the sewer service. That’s why we provided the service. So we’re proceeding as if they are valid.”

Guthrie confirmed to The Square Beacon, “Yes, we believe all of our waivers are valid.” On Friday, Guthrie did not have a figure for the number of waivers that are involved. Continue reading “Bloomington preps for annexation restart on May 19, will assume remonstrance waivers voided by state legislature are valid”

Bloomington to restart 2017 annexation process

Bloomington’s mayor John Hamilton used a 10:30 a.m. live-streamed video on Wednesday to announce the resumption of the city’s 2017 plans for annexation.

Image links to high resolution .pdf file.

The live-streamed announcement lasted under five minutes.

Based on city website material now posted on the topic of the resuscitated annexation effort, the same seven chunks of land that were proposed in 2017 for annexation will be under consideration now.

According to a press release issued during Hamilton’s announcement,  Bloomington’s city council is scheduled to review the updated fiscal plans related to the proposed annexations at a May 12 session.

Adoption of the annexation ordinances is anticipated sometime in September, according to the release.

Annexed areas would likely become part of the city at the beginning of the year 2024, according to Hamilton.

Clearing the way for the resumption of annexation plans was a 3–2 Indiana Supreme Court ruling in mid-December last year.

In 2017, the state legislature had passed a law, as part of the biennial budget that year, that had the effect of suspending Bloomington’s annexation process, which was then in progress.

Bloomington filed a lawsuit, arguing that the state legislature’s law was unconstitutional  and prevailed in the narrow decision handed down by Indiana’s highest court last year.

May 12 would normally be a night for committee meetings for the city council. Consideration of annexations would almost certainly be a committee-of-the-whole meeting. Continue reading “Bloomington to restart 2017 annexation process”

Monroe County commissioners OK rezone, which could mean 330 more housing units on edge of Bloomington

The property that was rezoned by county commissioners sits just on the boundary of the city of Bloomington. It’s a part of Area 1A that was included in the city of Bloomington annexation proposal in 2017, which was suspended by the state legislature. (Image links to dynamic map)
This aerial image, which is dated April 2020, is from the Pictometry module of Monroe County’s online property lookup system.

A rezoning for 38 acres of former farmland on the western boundary of Bloomington was approved at the regular Wednesday meeting of Monroe County commissioners.

That clears the way for the developer to submit to the county planning department a site plan for a development that would include 330 new apartments. The development, by Domo Development Company and Redhawk Multifamily, is also planned to include 11,000 square feet of retail and 22,000 square feet of private office suites.

Even if the final approval for the project is not done, the major hurdle of the zoning has been cleared.

On the housing side, the proposed rental unit mix will be 10 percent studios, 50 percent 1-bedroom, 35 percent 2-bedroom, and 5 percent 3-bedroom units, according to the meeting information packet. The projected rent will range between $875 and $1,500 a month. Continue reading “Monroe County commissioners OK rezone, which could mean 330 more housing units on edge of Bloomington”

Questions from Supreme Court justices point to heart of annexation law case involving Bloomington: Was the governor the right person to sue?

In 2017, Bloomington filed suit against Indiana’s governor, Eric Holcomb, over a law enacted by the state legislature as a part of the biennial budget bill.

As Bloomington’s city attorney, Mike Rouker, described the legislation on Thursday morning, during oral arguments in front of Indiana’s Supreme Court, the law “prohibited Bloomington and only Bloomington from taking any further action toward its ongoing municipal annexation…” Continue reading “Questions from Supreme Court justices point to heart of annexation law case involving Bloomington: Was the governor the right person to sue?”

Thursday morning: Internet stream for Bloomington’s arguments in front of Indiana Supreme Court on annexation law

On Thursday morning, oral arguments will be heard by Indiana’s Supreme Court in the case involving Bloomington’s constitutional challenge to a 2017 law that suspended its in-progress annexation process.

Bloomington won a favorable ruling on both of its constitutional arguments in the lower court. Briefly put, the court agreed with Bloomington that the law was impermissible special legislation and that it violated the single-subject rule.

It’s Gov. Eric Holcomb, the defendant in the case, who has appealed to the state’s highest court.

People who want to watch the city argue the case in front of the state’s highest court can watch the online video stream on Thursday, Jan. 9, starting at 8:58 a.m. That’s two minutes before the five justices are scheduled to hear arguments.

City attorney Mike Rouker will present Bloomington’s case, as he did during the lower court hearing in late March last year. Continue reading “Thursday morning: Internet stream for Bloomington’s arguments in front of Indiana Supreme Court on annexation law”

Oral Arguments in front of Supreme Court scheduled for Bloomington’s lawsuit over annexation law: Jan. 9, 2020

Oral arguments have now been scheduled by Indiana’s Supreme Court in the lawsuit that Bloomington filed against Gov. Eric Holcomb in May 2017.

cropped seal of Supreme Court Screen Shot 2019-11-15 at 10.26.29 AM

Th case stems from a law enacted by the state legislature that year, which effectively ended Bloomington’s annexation process that was underway.

Each side will have a chance to argue in front of the state’s highest court on Jan. 9 next year.

The state legislature incorporated a law on annexation into its biennial budget bill for 2017, which effectively ended the process Bloomington was working through at the time to add geographic area to the city.

In May 2017, Bloomington filed suit challenging the law on two separate constitutional grounds—that it violated the state constitution’s single-subject rule, and that it violated the constitutional provision against impermissible specific legislation.

The Monroe County circuit court’s ruling, made in April of this year, was in favor of Bloomington on both of its arguments. The state appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court. Final briefs were filed with the Supreme Court at the end of September.

Neither the city nor the state filed a motion asking for oral arguments to be held. But the Supreme Court’s order, signed by its chief justice, Loretta Rush on Nov. 13, states, “The Court has determined the above-captioned case merits oral argument.”

The total time allotted for arguments in front of the five-member Supreme Court is 40 minutes, to be divided equally at 20 minutes a side. The location of the arguments will be in the Supreme Court’s chambers at the Statehouse in Indianapolis. The appointed hour is 9 a.m.

[Previous coverage by The Beacon on Bloomington v. Holcomb ]

Bloomington’s wait begins: State’s appeal of annexation ruling now fully briefed

cropped brighter statehouseIMG_2411
Indiana state capitol in Indianapolis, late August 2019. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Continuing its methodical path through the judicial system is an appeal by the governor to the Indiana Supreme Court. The state is seeking to  overturn a lower court ruling made in April, which found that a 2017 law blocking Bloomington’s annexation process was unconstitutional on two separate grounds.

On Friday, the State of Indiana filed its reply to Bloomington’s response to the state’s initial papers. With that, according to the state’s online document system, the case in front of the state’s highest court is now “fully briefed.” Continue reading “Bloomington’s wait begins: State’s appeal of annexation ruling now fully briefed”

Bloomington responds to State of Indiana’s appeal brief in 2017 annexation case: “Nonsense.”

On Wednesday, Bloomington filed with the Indiana Supreme Court its response to the State of Indiana’s appeal of a lower court ruling made in April, which found that a 2017 law blocking Bloomington’s annexation process was unconstitutional on two separate grounds.

Nonsense Screen Shot 2019-08-29 at 9.48.03 PM
The word “nonsense” is highlighted in blue in this screenshot from Bloomington’s brief filed with the Supreme Court on Aug. 28, 2019, but not in the actual brief.

Bloomington’s brief uses words like “nonsense,” “preposterous,” and “outlandish” in its response to some of the State’s arguments.

The law, enacted by the state legislature in its 2017 session, was included as part of the biennial budget bill that year. The law’s inclusion in the budget bill is one reason the Monroe County Circuit Court found it to be unconstitutional. The annexation law violated the state constitution’s “single subject” rule for legislation, according to the circuit court.

The circuit court found that the 2017 annexation law also violated the state constitution’s prohibition against “special legislation.” It’s a prohibition that doesn’t rule out legislation affecting just one municipality, which the 2017 annexation law does. Both sides agree that the 2017 law affected only Bloomington and was designed that way. The legal question is whether the special law falls within the definition of “permissible special legislation”—a kind of question on which courts have ruled in the past.

So the first briefs, which have now been filed by both sides with the Indiana Supreme Court, include dozens of citations to previous rulings on the question of what counts as permissible special legislation.

Among the previous cases to which the two sides are giving different interpretations is Dortch v. Lugar (1971), which allowed for the Unigov plan for Indianapolis and Marion County to be implemented. Continue reading “Bloomington responds to State of Indiana’s appeal brief in 2017 annexation case: “Nonsense.””