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1/23/2016 12:53:00 PM
Indiana Supreme Court upholds merger of Zionsville and Perry Township

Rod Rose, Lebanon Reporter Assistant Managing Editor

Zionsville and Perry Township have won Indiana Supreme Court approval to merge.

In a decision issued Friday afternoon, the court also ruled Whitestown would not be able to move forward with the three annexation plans announced in 2014. Whitestown’s 2013 southside annexation is not among the annexations challenged by Friday’s Indiana Supreme Court ruling and remains on appeal.

The decision, written for the court by Justice Brent E. Dickson, said that Zionsville, after its 2010 reorganization with Eagle and Union townships, retained the powers of a township, allowing the Perry reorganization to stand. The court also said that Zionsville met the requirement that the two merging areas have a contiguous border of more than 150 feet.

“We’re really excited and pleased with the Supreme Court ruling,” said Mayor Tim Haak. “We’re looking forward to having a mayor for a long time. I’m looking forward to serving as mayor and working with our friends in Whitestown to make Boone County a great place to live.”

Perry Township and Zionsville finalized their reorganization on May 20, 2014. Whitestown then filed suit, and in October 2014, now-retired Boone County Judge Becky McClure ruled the reorganization was invalid and shouldn’t proceed.

Her ruling came down after the deadline to amend ballots for the November 2014 election, and the reorganization plan was overwhelmingly approved in both Zionsville and Perry Township.

Zionsville appealed McClure’s ruling, and in June 2015, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled the reorganization could proceed. Whitestown then petitioned the Indiana Supreme Court to take the case.

Whitestown Town Manager Dax Norton said he learned of the decision about 3 p.m. Friday.

“We’re disappointed, obviously, but we respect the court’s decision, and we will move forward as the fastest growing community in Indiana,” he said.

Norton said the town “will repair any relationships with our neighbors.”

“I’m not sure the relationships have been damaged,” he said. “Obviously, they have been strained, especially when fighting in court, but now that this case is over and a ruling has been made, you want to move forward, especially with those communities you are neighbors with.

“The council has been notified,” Norton said.

Zionsville and Perry Township had used Indiana’s Government Modernization Act to merge, in the same way that the former Eagle and Union townships had combined their government with Zionsville in 2010. Only a section of Eagle Township that was already part of Whitestown was excluded.

“The GMA’s language is clear, however, that to initiate a reorganization, all that is required is for a political subdivision to adopt a resolution proposing a reorganization and naming the other participating political subdivision(s),” Dickson wrote.

Dickson cited Indiana’s “first-in-time” rule to block annexations Whitestown proposed in 2014 because the reorganization process started before Whitestown’s plans to annex. Those areas are now within Zionsville’s corporate limits.

Whitestown missed completing the annexations proposed in 2014 by one day .

Perry Township’s advisory board on April 18, 2014, approved the reorganization with Zionsville. The Zionsville Town Council approved the reorganization on April 21. On April 22, Whitestown introduced four proposed annexation resolutions, including territory in Perry Township alone, one within Zionsville as reorganized in 2010, and one from both the 2010 and proposed 2014 reorganizations.

Based on that timing, Dickson wrote, Whitestown may not complete any of its proposed annexations.

“Neither of Zionsville’s reorganizations presents any incursion into the municipal boundaries of Whitestown and thus do not substantively impair Whitestown’s rights,” Dickson wrote.

Effectively, Dickson wrote, Perry Township became part of Zionsville on Jan. 1, 2015.

The town of Zionsville now stretches along the southern Boone County line from Hamilton County west to 3-1/2 miles west of state Route 267.

Matt Werner contributed to this story.

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