Sunday, September 26, 2010

Flush Forced Annexations

HARBESON: I was forced to write this column

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Sellersburg government’s attempt to forcibly annex the Covered Bridge subdivision and surrounding areas received more court action last week. Many people in the area do not want to be annexed and by law if at least 65 percent of property owners object and sign a remonstrance, they can stop a local government from grabbing control. In this case, a whopping 81.5 percent of the property owners signed on.

Usually, that’s the end of it, but there is a controversy over whether many of those people who signed can actually do so. Sellersburg government says most of the signatories are property owners who lost their right to object because of a previous agreement made with the original developers when Sellersburg provided sewer service.

This is being battled out in the government court system and Sellersburg’s lawyer explained that the town held up their end of the deal. He said, “Once this sewer service goes into effect, that’s a condition that triggers this particular provision.”

That certainly sets up an interesting situation for the homeowner. I can imagine him now, contentedly sitting on his new toilet in his new home for the very first time, probably reading the opinion page of this newspaper and completely oblivious to the future implications of that first flush.

I have even greater sympathy for the property owners outside of these subdivisions. When the subdivision homeowners are subtracted from the total it still leaves about 136 official signatures. If the battle is about the right to remonstrate, then what about these people? Where do they fit in?

They did not buy their property under any developer-government sewer agreement, so aren’t their rights being completely ignored? If their right to remonstrate for the 65 percent figure is tied to the people in these subdivisions, then their right to remonstrate has been completely taken away from them when they didn’t even sign anything.

It’s one thing to fight over an agreement that developers made with the government over sewer services in those subdivisions, but it’s an entirely other matter for these people who had absolutely nothing to do with that. Do these 136 property owners have the right on their own to tell Sellersburg to go jump in the sewer?

Will their rights even be taken into account during this current court battle? The ability to remonstrate has to exist for Sellersburg to say people signed away the right. So if the courts say the property owners inside the subdivisions can’t remonstrate because they did indeed sign this right away, then it will also be taking the right away for those who did not sign any deed restriction. It would be a self-contradictory judgment.

Forced annexations have to be one of the worst aspects of government and Indiana is not the only state wrestling over this kind of abuse. Last week Rock Hill, S.C., caught lots of attention. The situation was quite similar to what we’ve seen here locally in that the property owners were receiving a single service from a town government, except in this case the service was water. The government made news when they threatened to turn off water service, not for nonpayment, but as a threat against property owners objecting to forced annexation.

Isn’t it amazing how governments work to grow and expand? When a government entity gets involved in providing a service, it’s not good enough that people simply pay for the service.

No, unfortunately power hungry government control freaks will go for nothing less than complete territorial rule. There is one thing to be thankful for though, at least they don’t mark their territory like dogs do.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson can usually be found hanging out in the yard because her favorite activity is marking her territory.

1 comment:

  1. Good article. I tweeted a link.