Case heads to trial: Land owners plan to fight annexation into town limits

HANCOCK COUNTY — County residents opposed to being drawn into Cumberland town limits are getting their day in court.

Cumberland’s proposal to draw about 300 acres of rural Hancock County land into its town limits will be argued before a judge Monday, and the fate of the annexation, which has been debated for nearly two and a half years, will be decided.

The case between the town of Cumberland and the landowners living in the proposed annexation’s territory is scheduled for a trial beginning at 9 a.m. Monday in Hancock County Superior Court 1.

Each side will defend their case, and Judge Terry Snow will make a final decision about whether the annexation moves forward.

The 286-acre annexation — which would increase the town’s size by about 20 percent – affects 32 properties along the north and south sides of U.S. 40 between county roads 700W and 600W.

Those properties would retain their existing Hancock County addresses but would receive services, including fire and police protection, from Cumberland.

Those opposed to the annexation say they already receive adequate police and fire coverage from the county and township and don’t see how they’ll benefit from being pulled into town limits.

Members of the Cumberland Town Council first approved the measure in January 2015.

Shortly after, several property owners signed a petition against the proposal, citing concerns over increased property tax rates to cover the cost of police and fire protection and possible fees for hooking up to town utilities.

Last July, Snow ruled the 14 property owners who had signed the petition against the annexation represent a significant portion of the residents affected by the town’s plans — and they deserve the chance to argue publicly against the proposal.

The parties involved have spent the past few months preparing for the trial. The court postponed the trial in March, moving it to Monday.

Ken Stevens, a property owner whose home would be annexed into Cumberland, is hopeful Snow will rule in the homeowners’ favor. Stevens declined to comment further on the case.

Cumberland has little room left for growth within its current limits, and the town council has set its sights east.

If the town secures the land, any new construction will be held to Cumberland’s existing standards for properties along U.S. 40, including requirements for setbacks and building materials, town officials said.

The majority of the affected land is currently used for agricultural purposes, they’ve said.

Attorneys representing the town of Cumberland could not be reached for comment.

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.