Legal Challenge to Mall Annexation  Would Question Its Reasonableness

Legal Challenge to Mall Annexation Would Question Its Reasonableness

State law outlines the procedures for annexing property to a municipality and for challenging the legality of an annexation. Annexation can occur by filing a petition and holding an election, as found in La.R.S. 33:151 et seq. An annexation can also occur by petition under La.R.S. 33:171 et seq.  When there are no registered voters or resident property owners in the area and it is vacant land, the petition must contain the signature of every property owner. When there are no registered voters and no resident property owners and the land is not vacant, annexation by petition does not apply unless 90 percent of the boundary of the property is contiguous to the city limits. Attorney Gen. Opinion 1-191 of May 18, 2001.   The East Baton Rouge Parish Plan of Government provides for annexation

of property in Section 1.09.  It is generally consistent with state law.  However, it provides that annexation by petition need only contain a majority of the property owners in “a compact body of land.”  In most cases, state law supersedes a local plan of government.

R.S. 33:172 and 174 contain most of the rules for annexing property by petition.  Section 172 includes the requirement that an area to be annexed must be contiguous.  R.S.

172(A)(5) provides in part:

“Multiple petitions may be used to annex different properties so long as the petitions, when considered together, are capable of covering an area which has a contiguous outer boundary in which the above majority and percentage requirements for annexation are met.”

In this case, the petition filed with the Metro Council included multiple petitions.  Under R.S. 172(A)(5), the multiple petitions must “cover” an area which has “a contiguous outer boundary.”  This language seems contrary to the idea of annexing properties with holes in it.

Similarly, the EBR Plan of Government 1.09 says the petitions must be from a “compact body of land,” which again suggests that there can be no holes.  Otherwise, an annexation could simply hop over every property owner who refuses to sign the petition

Under R.S. 33:172, a challenge to an annexation hinges on “reasonableness.”  The statute says reasonableness “shall include but not be limited to an evaluation of the desires of the owners of the property proposed to be annexed, the anticipated public benefit of the proposed annexation, and the fiscal and financial impact that the extension of the corporate limits of the municipality will have on the municipality, the parish, and the neighboring property owners.”

Presumably, the effect on law enforcement and fire protection would be weighed by the standard of reasonableness.

Like R.S. 33:172, R.S. 33:174 outlines how an individual can challenge the validity of an annexation of property.  Again, assuming all the rules of annexation are met, the statute says the validity of the annexation hinges on its reasonableness.

The statute also requires that the municipality comply with its own rules on annexation.  It says the validity of the annexation depends on, “Whether the municipality complied with its own requirements for the adoption of ordinance in adopting the annexation ordinance.”

If the court holds that an annexation is invalid, substantially the same annexation cannot be attempted for at least one year.

Any suit to challenge the legality of an annexation must be brought within thirty days of the passage of the ordinance.  The statute sets up an expedited procedure for hearing such cases and for expediting appeals.


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