Jackson annex plan foiled

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The north city limits of Jackson will change now that a judge has ruled its annexation of property along U.S. 61 and Interstate 55 in 2009 was illegal.

Judge William Syler ruled the city's annexation of public rights of way along one mile of U.S. 61 and 3.5 miles of I-55 was "illegal, invalid and void" because it was not "compact and contiguous" as required by statute and it also failed to meet other procedural requirements.

The lawsuit was brought in November by four couples and the not-for-profit organization Save Our Children's Health, Inc.

In February -- just before a citywide vote on whether or not to annex a quarry and other land in Fruitland -- Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster's office gave plaintiffs the go-ahead to file a "quo warranto" action, meaning in effect they were suing on behalf of the state. Quo warranto normally is used to remove public officials, but not in this case.

The plaintiffs, known in a quo warranto action as relators, argued the proposed annexation could not move forward because the city acted illegally in annexing lands along the roadways to get to Fruitland property it proposed to annex.

Voters did not approve the Fruitland annexation in February and on Oct. 9 Syler ordered the city "ousted from these roadways." The U.S. 61 portion began at the intersection of Route Y and continued one mile north toward Fruitland. The I-55 portion ran from the Bent Creek subdivision area to the Fruitland interchange.

The city issued a statement Tuesday saying it stands by the 2009 annexation as a "well-intentioned attempt to secure orderly growth to the north for the citizens of Jackson," but it will not appeal the judge's ruling.

As a result of the judge's ruling, the city will immediately discontinue providing police and fire protection services to these segments of roadway, according to the city's statement. It will now be up to the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department and Missouri State Highway Patrol to respond to accidents that occur on these segments of roadway.

"The court has ruled and the city respects and accepts the ruling without further court action," city officials said in the statement. "The City of Jackson will move on and work on projects within its boundaries and will work to make our city even better."

The relators -- Al and Judy Franke, Kenneth and Virginia Leimbach, Save Our Children's Health, Inc., Thomas and Abby Petzoldt and Omer and Linda Luttrull -- were represented jointly by attorneys Thad Brady, John Lichtenegger, John Cook and Michael Ponder.

Thomas Petzoldt said he and other plaintiffs are pleased that the laws and statutes of the state were upheld by the judge. He added that Fruitland residents will continue to meet and discuss possible options for the future of their community.

Jackson City Attorney Thomas Ludwig declined to comment on the judge's ruling.

The ruling specifies each party is responsible for its own attorney fees, but Ludwig said he did not know the city's cost for representation.

Mayor Barbara Lohr did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Lichtenegger said the fact that Jackson is not appealing the judgment is an indication that they will now take a proper approach with their expansion efforts.

"You can't be running up and down interstates to grab a piece here and a piece there," he said.

The annexation actions, he added, violated statutes because the land they annexed was not a minimum of one-quarter of a mile wide, which law requires.

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

Jackson, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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