A Brown County judge has denied a state request to dismiss a lawsuit the City of Bloomington filed this year challenging a state law that blocked the city’s annexation efforts.
City officials filed the lawsuit in May after a line in the biennial state budget prevented the city from moving forward with plans to annex about 10,000 acres. The city says it spent at least $770,000 on the proposal before state lawmakers stopped it in its tracks.
“We are glad this ruling is in our favor and behind us so that we can reach the merits of the case in what we hope will be a timely fashion,” said City of Bloomington Corporation Counsel Philippa Guthrie in a statement. “Ultimately, we will seek a ruling that the General Assembly overstepped its authority in halting Bloomington’s annexation process mid-stream.”
The lawsuit claims the legislation violates the state constitution because it singles out an individual community for regulation.
The lawsuit names Gov. Eric Holcomb as the defendant. The state filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in July, partially claiming Holcomb is not an appropriate defendant.
“The controversy in this case is between the plaintiff, City of Bloomington and the State of Indiana,” said Judge Frank M. Nardi in the ruling. “Additionally, prior Indiana case law has found the governor to be an appropriate defendant when the constitutionality of a statute is at issue.”
Nardi is presiding over the lawsuit because Monroe County Judge Frances Hill disqualified herself from the case.
Nardi issued the ruling on Oct. 3, but the parties were not notified until Oct. 18 due to a mail issue.
Bloomington-based Cook Group played a role in halting the annexation plans. Last month, the city announced a plan to enter into an agreement that will allow Cook to make yearly payments of $100,000 to the city in exchange for Bloomington agreeing not to annex Cook properties that sit outside of city limits.
Mayor John Hamilton said in September that with the agreement in place, there is a chance legislators could take action during the upcoming session that would allow the annexation plan to move forward.
“I do hope going forward that we can resolve the annexation issues outside the courtroom and we’ll certainly look forward to talking about that,” Hamilton said.
If approved, money from the deal will be deposited into the city’s general fund. The city council will consider the agreement during its Oct. 18 meeting.
Read Judge Nardi’s complete ruling below: