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When the Lebanon City Council voted to annex approximately 415 acres of property on the city's southwest border in February of 2006, a group of property owners in that area filed a lawsuit challenging that annexation.
After six years of hearings and appeals, the Kentucky Supreme Court will hold oral arguments in the case at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, in the courtroom on the second floor of the state Capitol, 700 Capitol Avenue in Frankfort.
So far, the Marion Circuit Court and the Kentucky Court of Appeals have sided with the property owners. The city appealed the case to the Kentucky Supreme Court, and the Kentucky League of Cities has filed an amicus brief in support of the City of Lebanon.
The original lawsuit was filed in 2006 by a group of property owners who were opposed to the annexation. The annexed area included residential properties, businesses and the land that is now the Lebanon Wal-Mart.
On Feb. 28, 2006, the city deemed the petition was "insufficient." The city cited Chapter 81A.420 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS), which reads that at least 50 percent of the resident voters or owners of real property within a proposed annexation area can petition for an election on the annexation question.
The same day the city council disallowed the petition, the lawsuit was filed against the city. Many of the property owners opposed to the annexation owned businesses in that area, but were not residents in that area.
Marion Circuit Judge Allan Bertram initially ruled to uphold the annexation in 2010, but attorneys for the property owners requested that Bertram reconsider his decision. On April 22, 2010, Bertram threw out his initial decision and ruled that the annexation was invalid.
The city appealed the case, and last year, the Court of Appeals agreed that annexation should be voided.
The city has continued to collect occupational taxes, property taxes and restaurant taxes on the properties in the contested area. That money, which is around $540,000, is being held in an escrow account until the court cases are resolved.
City Attorney Kandice Engle-Gray wrote in a brief that the city followed the annexation framework spelled out in the Kentucky Revised Statutes, and that the opponents failed to file a petition that met the requirements for an annexation election.
Jim Avritt Sr. and Ted Lavit, the attorneys for the property owners, have accused the city of gerrymandering the annexed area, writing that "the boundaries of the territory proposed to be annexed were determined arbitrarily, unreasonably, illegally and unconstitutionally." They also noted that 18 property owners were given the option of whether or not to be annexed, while five owners were not offered that choice.
Attorneys for the Kentucky League of Cities have argued in support of the city's annexation in an amicus brief. The KLC argues that overturning the annexation was "legally sound", but noted that the final decision will have "far-reached consequences for all Kentucky cities."
Editor's note: During the oral arguments, a live stream is available online at http://courts.ky.gov/courts/supreme/Pages/OralArgumentscalendar.aspx.