Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

April 5, 2013

Family responds to annexation dispute

By Wade Coggeshall

PLAINFIELD — Denny Grundy responded to an article in the March 30 Hendricks County Flyer regarding his family farm being annexed into Plainfield. While the Grundys had fought involuntary annexation into Avon, they offered no resistance when Plainfield later took them under its jurisdiction.

The Plainfield Town Council voted unanimously to annex the Grundy family farm at its March 25 meeting. The property is about 125 acres in the southeast corner of Washington Township near Perry Road. The Grundys signed a voluntary annexation with Plainfield.

Last fall, Avon's town council considered annexing the Grundys' property against their wishes. In an e-mail from Grundy, he wrote that Avon did not "consider" annexing his land but rather "drove a stake in the ground" by starting the legal process to involuntarily annex his property - first with a certified letter and then by a legally-required public hearing.

"We exercised our legal right and told Avon that we would remonstrate if they passed an involuntary annexation ordinance," Grundy wrote.

He disputed Washington Township Trustee Don Hodson's assertion that such involuntary annexation is essential to protecting Washington Township's tax base for fire protection. Having property taken by a municipality outside of the township would dilute the tax base, Hodson said at Avon's public hearing.

"With another town annexing inside Washington Township, the responsibility to provide fire services for that property goes with the town that annexed the property," Grundy wrote in response. "Therefore, with decreased responsibility, Washington Township Fire Department would/could/should downsize to fit their lessened responsibility, therefore possibly lowering the taxes of the remaining township residences."

In a letter published in the Nov. 10 Flyer, Grundy wrote that Avon attempted to annex his farm about six years earlier, and only stopped after he told officials the farm would remain an agricultural operation. He further clarified via e-mail, "Avon dropped their attempt only after we asked Plainfield to send a letter to Avon stating that Plainfield would not involuntary annex our property. For the current attempt, we asked for Plainfield to again send a letter to Avon stating that Plainfield would not involuntary annex our property, which they did. We received no response from Avon."

Through their attorney, Mel Daniel (also Plainfield's legal counsel), the Grundys had told the Avon Town Council they didn't want to be annexed by anyone. Grundy describes Avon's annexation attempts as "bullying tactics." He wrote that Avon officials told Daniel they'd leave the Grundy property alone if they dropped their remonstration.

"Faced with these unbending demands that stripped us of our legal rights, we were forced to take action, and if it was Avon's plan to trick us into going to Plainfield, they could not have done a better job of it," Grundy wrote. "We, to this day, don't want to be in any town, but were forced to pick the lesser of two evils, so we asked Plainfield for 'voluntary annexation.'"

Avon Town Manager Tom Klein previously stated that they offered to withdraw their annexation attempt if the Grundys withdrew from their agreement with Plainfield.

"Only after Avon failed to meet the legal time requirement of voting on their annexation ordinance did Avon offer any agreement," Grundy wrote. "We were forced to act, because we did not trust Avon would not start the process all over again, and we had already spent too much of our money in defending against the first attempt."

He added that they rejected Avon's offer because, "Their agreement gave Avon sole decision-making over our property by our agreeing to a provision that allowed Avon to take us to court if, at a later date, we asked for a voluntary annexation by Plainfield, thereby eliminating our legal rights. Avon obviously wanted that provision in case the (potential consolidation of Avon and Washington Township) failed at the ballot in 2014."

Michael Rogers, president of the Avon Town Council, previously stated that their comprehensive plan, which was updated in 2005, called for annexing all open farm land into Avon. Grundy noted Indiana is one of only three states that still allows involuntary annexation, and that movements are underway to eliminate it.

"Our position is a lot of this vacant land is going to be developed," Rogers said. "Even with farm land, we've found sooner or later it's going to be sold. When it's developed, we want to be in the position where it comes before our plan commission instead of the county's."

"It's not that we're doing anything new," he said of the situation with the Grundys. "They were leading people to believe we were singling them out and we weren't."

Replied Grundy, "We simply exercised our legal right to fight against an involuntary annexation. Since, to our knowledge, no other family/group has fought the town of Avon on an involuntary annexation attempt, they were shocked and took offense to our legal right to act."

Rogers had questioned what Plainfield has to offer the Grundy family.

"It's put us in the position of not being able to wait and see what Plainfield's going to do," Rogers said.

In response, Grundy wrote, "We were repeatedly told and also have in writing that Avon's reason to involuntary annex our property was their desire to Ôstiff arm' Plainfield out of the township. Remember that we received no response from Avon from Plainfield's letter of not involuntary annexing our property, which would have placated Avon's fear."

In regard to Rogers saying history shows that Plainfield is going to be aggressive when it comes to this, Grundy wrote, "To our knowledge, and we checked, Plainfield has never involuntarily annexed any farming property in Washington Township. Avon can't say the same. Therefore, all the owners of farmland in Washington Township, which is now within Plainfield's boundaries, decided that Plainfield had something more to offer them than Avon did."