Home Place agrees to Carmel annexation after long legal battle

CARMEL, Ind. – After a protracted legal battle lasting more than a decade, Home Place will allows its annexation by Carmel.

According to a statement from Concerned Citizens for Home Place (CCHP), the annexation will be complete on Jan. 1, 2018.

The group had fought annexation for years, contesting it repeatedly since the Carmel City Council voted unanimously in November 2004 to annex the Clay Township community.

CCHP’s decision to concede the annexation followed an Oct. 31 ruling by the Indiana Court of Appeals that said Carmel could proceed with the annexation plan. The decision upheld a previous ruling by a trial court in the case.

The case states, "Landowners failed to prove that fire protection is being adequately furnished by a provider other than Carmel. The judgement of the trial court is affirmed."

According to Matt Milam, the group’s president, CCHP considered taking the case all the way to the Indiana Supreme Court. However, the majority of residents felt a successful appeal would be unlikely and result in more legal fees.

Residents still expressed concerns about the annexation:

CCHP discussed a variety of concerns about Carmel services, infrastructure installation costs, and eminent domain processes. The group pledged to remain proactively available to the district to help assist potential changes and property owner interests if annexed. Additionally, attendees voiced concerns about the Carmel Master Plan’s impacts on Home Place as well as how the district would be represented in Carmel’s elected government and administration.

The court case initially broke in Home Place’s favor, with a judge ruling in 2005 that Carmel couldn’t go through with the annexation because Carmel didn’t have an adequate plan for financing city services in the area, which includes about 2,200 homes and 5,000 residents.

The Court of Appeals reversed that decision in October 2007, sending the case back to trial court.

Home Place and Carmel later made two separate agreements delaying the annexation, but the case ended up back in court in 2016, when those agreements expired.

In the end, the group said it was proud of its efforts, even if they didn’t ultimately stop the annexation:

While Home Place may now be facing extinction, the efforts of CCHP and the Home Place community placed forced annexation into the limelight and by doing so, helped contribute to new annexation legislation at the Statehouse. Those statutes better protect Indiana citizens from being forcibly annexed.

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard issued this statement:

"We are pleased with today’s agreement with some of the residents of Home Place to move forward with the annexation of this area into the City of Carmel.

"I first proposed this in 1996 as a matter of efficiency in local government. Home Place is an urbanized area and should be part of the City of Carmel. We are one community with one public school system, one library system, a fire department that serves both the city and the township --everyone should be part of the community, the City of Carmel.

"It is very inefficient to serve just a two square mile area.  Hamilton County officials have been supportive in the decision to annex the area because they recognize how much it costs to serve Home Place.  Even though the county does a good job of providing basic services, Carmel can do it for less money because the city totally surrounds Home Place.

"Carmel spends a great deal of money providing services such as economic development.  This helps everyone within the public school district because it helps hold down taxes; however, Carmel residents are paying for all of it. Additionally, Home Place residents are tremendously impacted by Carmel's policy and decisions and they should be allowed to vote for those officials.

"We recognize that some have expressed concern about their local tax rates going up. While that is true that property owners will be paying City taxes beginning with the January 1, 2018 Assessment, they should also know that Carmel has one of the lowest city tax rates in Indiana.

"Home Place is an area in need of assistance that only Carmel can provide. Hamilton County, for example, does not have a code enforcement agency and as a result there are many absentee landlords that are offering substandard housing.  Carmel has housing and code enforcement inspectors and does not allow houses to be in a rundown condition, grass not to be cut, cars on blocks etc. While only a portion of Home Place has these problems it is a serious problem and I don't want it to spread.

"I have personally heard from many property owners in Home Place that they have been in favor of annexation. They understand and we believe that property owners in Home Place will benefit from annexation.

"There are many areas of Home Place that are beautiful and well kept. But we also acknowledge that there are some concerned that without annexation and the added city services that come with it, their property values could eventually depreciate, impacting years of savings. Most people's houses are their biggest investment and I do not want to see values destroyed and I am concerned the blight on some of the streets will spread.  The absentee landlords need to be held to higher standards and county government, meant for rural areas, is not equipped with the manpower to do that."