Sunday, September 13, 2009

Forced Annexation In Indiana Really Stinks

HARBESON: Forced annexation really stinks

Last week’s mention of Sellersburg’s attempt to annex Covered Bridge subdivision reminded me that every time I hear about Clark County forced annexations, I always end up in the sewers.

I really wanted to learn what’s going on here, so I dove deep into the stench to try and wrap my hands around something solid.

From what I understand, the usual way to protest a forced annexation is for homeowners to file a petition for remonstrance. However, this method is not available to Covered Bridge residents, because they signed away that right when they purchased their homes.

Signing away remonstrance rights is something we’ve seen happen repeatedly in Clark County over the past few years. Apparently, it’s become standard for developers and local governments to make these deals as a condition of providing sewer service to the area.

Obviously at some point, a government official thought, “Hey, once we get people to purchase our sewer service, we have the chance to put them totally under our local control. All we have to do is insert a line in this document that says they have no right to remonstrate future annexation.

“Then we can make them purchase all of our services and also take more of their money and spend it on other stuff we think is cool!”

Many homeowners have no idea they signed away these rights until a city or town comes in and demands control over their property. I know that’s no excuse — buyer beware and all — but it seems to me that we really have a problem of informed consent here.

Surely it’s not done this way to purposely deceive prospective buyers who think they will only be under county government. Right?

Whether or not that’s the case, we need to inform everyone looking for a home, especially in a newer subdivision, to ask pointed questions.

Find out exactly what local government entities have control over the property. If you are told the property is under county government jurisdiction only, check all of your paperwork carefully. Look for fine print about signing away your right to remonstrate a future annexation by a money-grubbing government entity.

I hope those of you in the real estate business will help and start informing your customers properly about these agreements.

Forcing people to annex and become part of a town just because they bought one product or service doesn’t make sense. That’s like purchasing wood flooring from Home Depot and then being told you now have to purchase furniture, artwork and a new swing set from them too. It doesn’t matter if you can get the furniture cheaper elsewhere, or if you don’t want a swing set.

In addition, you’d also have to give Home Depot money to buy other stuff they think is cool, like, say, an indoor sports complex, or maybe even a canal through their parking lot.

This created a strange situation for Covered Bridge because, in an odd turn of events, the residents’ only choice to avoid adding Sellersburg’s layer of government is to create their own layer and incorporate as a town themselves. It’s hard to say at this point whether they will really be better off or not, assuming they get it done, but I guess they would have more control.

Covered Bridge residents really only wanted the freedom to purchase one product from Sellersburg: sewer service. But instead of thanking them for being a customer, like a private company would do, Sellersburg is using government force to take as much control over the homeowner’s property as they possibly can ... which really stinks.

SIGLINE: Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson loves to get her hands on something solid because then she has something to throw when she gets irritated.


  1. Sheesh, talk about outrageous! Yes buyer beware, but the Sellersburg govt certainly knows what it's doing and taking advantage of the fact that many people don't read the small print. Talk about aggressive. They might as well have written in small print, "Signing this document gives the Gov. of Sellersburg permission to peacefully conquer you. Thanks :)"


  2. "I really wanted to learn what’s going on here, so I dove deep into the stench to try and wrap my hands around something solid."

    Ooooh, now there's a visual that's, uhhhh, challenging.

    Up at this end of the state, the city of Fort Wayne, which is probably as dirty and corrupt as any city of its size, anywhere, has also been a hyper-aggressive annexer. In one case, a town was quickly and successfully incorporated as a defense; in more cases, the tactic failed. Remonstration hasn't been successful in any annexation dispute around here (although it did prevent the notoriously failed Fort Wayne Community Schools from issuing half a billion dollars' worth of bonds for bricks and mortar). I think local government aggressiveness will just get worse and worse, as the "takers" increasingly outnumber the "makers."

  3. What I also find interesting is that, as far as the number of people are concerned, it takes way less people to get an incorporation started (I think it's 50) than it does to get a remonstrance (which is a large percentage of all the people who would be involved)

    In other words, it's much easier to create a new government layer than it is to just stay out of a current government layer and keep your situation as is.

  4. I'm in a position where we are about to purchase a home on the outskirts of town (Mishawaka) and FHA is requiring us to hook up to sewer before they will approve the loan (even though the house has a new well/clean septic), but in order to do that, the city will force us to sign the "consent to annexation and waiver of right to remonstrate". I'm leery about signing this document.. is there anything I can do? Is it worth fighting even if there is? What kind of control can they take over my property? Thanks.

  5. I'm sorry Joe, I don't know what to tell you. From what you say, it looks like you may be stuck if you want that home. I guess you could try to slash out the waiver of right to remonstrate and see what they say. As far as what kind of control they can take, if/when they do annex the area you live in, you will be living under the same city ordinances/tax structure that every other city resident lives under. Sorry I can't be of more help.