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Boone County faces new challenge in annexation

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The appeal filed Wednesday in Boone County Circuit Court says the action taken by the city of Lebanon to annex more than 5,000 acres without having a clear plan on how the land is to be used is illegal.

The annexed land is ultimately going to be part of a state proposed high tech business park, the key word being proposed.

“Well to the common observer you would think trying to sell something that you don’t own seems like a shady deal,” Jim Love of Boone County Preservations Group said.  

The annexation would increase land mass of Lebanon by 50%. The map on the Indiana economic developments website shows how the state intends to use this land. In the upper right-hand corner, the purple-colored area marked sold is the site of a new Eli Lilly and company manufacturing facility. As for the rest of the map shaded in purple, no plans have been announced. Which according to the appeal filed in Boone County circuit court is a violation of a Lebanon city ordinance.  

“They are not following their own rules and the things they have said in the past on how we are going to grow this project and how we are going to grow this annexation,” Love said.

Most of the annexed land had been zoned for agricultural use. The city of Lebanon changed the designation to industrial.  Love says the city of Lebanon and the IEDC have not been fully transparent on their plans.  His land is shaded yellow on the map, which IEDC has earmarked for mixed-use or for use as a village center. Love has no intention of selling his land and didn’t take part in the annexation.  

“We didn’t want IEDC out promoting our farm as part of their project. There are others that adjoin us that are on that map that are being shown as part of the project that haven’t been as vocal or haven’t been to the meetings that are being shown as part of the project. It is very unfair because, it makes it look like the project in areas where folks have flat out said we are not interested in doing this, we are interested in keeping our farm for our farm and for our legacy,” Love said.

The annexation of land for this project is coming from the highest reaches of state government. House speaker Todd Huston says the governor wants land ready for development. 

“Secretary Chambers, Governor Holcomb and others have told us it is important to have site ready land available in these deals and this is just the nature of competing against other states, I think with Boone County has an example to have infrastructure in place it is a huge competitive advantage,” said Republican Speaker of the House Todd Huston. 

It will be up to a Boone County judge to decide if the competitive advantage the state wants is legal.