State appeals court rejects Cedar Lake annexation plan

Most of the crowd stands when a fellow audience member asked people to stand if they oppose the proposed annexation of the U.S. 41 South Corridor area during a 2015 Town Council public meeting Tuesday at Hanover Central High School in Cedar Lake, Ind.

Stephanie Dowell

INDIANAPOLIS — Opponents of Cedar Lake's attempt to annex some 2,800 acres of land along the U.S. 41 corridor from 137th to 173rd streets in south Lake County prevailed Wednesday at the Indiana Court of Appeals.

In a 3-0 decision, the appellate court affirmed the ruling of Lake Superior Judge Calvin Hawkins who found the town failed to demonstrate, as required by law, that the annexation territory was "needed and can be used by the municipality for its development in the reasonably near future."

The town claimed annexation would ensure planned growth around the Illiana Expressway; South Shore Line expansion; new Amazon.com warehouse in Monee, Illinois; construction of the Great Lake Basin Railroad freight line; and the south suburban airport in Peotone, Illinois.

However, the appellate judges concurred with Hawkins that those projects all are "either more in the realm of speculation than reality at this time, not expected to be completed in the near future or would have undetermined effect on the annexation parcel even upon completion."

They also found persuasive the evidence gathered by annexation opponents that no developers have sought to purchase land in the annexation territory, and, in fact, some developers have sold their previous holdings in the territory to area farmers. 

"We conclude that the above evidence is sufficient to sustain the trial court's conclusion that the town failed to establish that the annexation territory is needed and could be used in the reasonably near future," the court said.

The town, which already has spent $1 million to extend water service to the edge of the annexation territory, still can ask the Indiana Supreme Court to review the appellate ruling.

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Dan is Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Times. Since 2009, he's reported on Indiana government and politics — and how both impact the Region — from the state capital in Indianapolis. He originally is from Orland Park, Ill.