A Tipton County Judge has ruled property waivers signed by residents on Kokomo’s west side are invalid, creating a hurdle for the city’s annexation plans.
In addition to tossing out the waivers, Judge Thomas Lett’s ruling also confirmed the west side remonstrators have signatures from 65 percent of the affected residents opposing annexation which were needed to begin a legal battle against the city.
The waivers were signed mostly by developers while the city was just beginning to expand into nearby cornfields. They act as a written agreement saying residents relinquish their right to fight any future annexation by the city. In exchange, the city agrees to extend services to the affected area.
However, Indiana state law says future remonstration rights cannot be waived unless the waivers specify the services the city will offer. The judge’s ruling said the west side waivers did not adhere to this rule, which had been one of the two main points on which the opposition hung its argument, said west side attorney Alan Wilson.
Wilson also argued that as deeds were passed down following property sales, waivers got lost in the records. Many times, said Wilson, homebuyers never even saw the waivers they were signing.
But Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said both arguments are technicalities which hold little water in the bigger legal battle, other than to slow the process.
“It’ll hurt us a little bit. It’s part of the process that a lot of cities have went through. It’s just part of it.”
But Wilson said the arguments that tipped the scale in the waiver question were more than loopholes.
“I don’t consider them technicalities at all. I think they go to the heart of whether people in the area have a right to remonstrate against the annexation—have a right to say in court whether they want to become part of the city or not. They’re not just technicalities.”
Goodnight said there is a good chance the city will appeal the case, on which it has already spent some $300,000.