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Complaint filed against city of Lebanon could delay plans for industrial park

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Lebanon Mayor Matt Gentry during a city council meeting last year. A complaint filed in Boone County circuit court could delay the city’s plans for an industrial park. (File Photo Ben Thorp/WBAA News).

A group of Boone County residents has filed a complaint against the city of Lebanon to overturn the its annexation of over 5,000 acres in the area.

The annexed property is intended for a massive industrial park, backed by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. Last month, Lebanon annexed large tracts of land for inclusion in the so-called Limitless Exploration/Advanced Pace, or LEAP, district.

In the complaint, a lawyer for 11 county residents alleges the annexation was illegal and that the city failed to follow proper procedures.

Lawyer Mike Andreoli represents the plaintiffs. He said the city annexed an area outside Center Township – but its comprehensive plan only covered Center Township.

“They really had no comprehensive plan for that particular area, which we think is a fatal mistake,” he said.

The complaint argues the city failed to consider both Indiana state law and Lebanon’s own unified zoning ordinance.

“They did not properly consider the statutory factors in order to assign a zone classification to this ground,” Andreoli said. “They didn’t consider what this was going to do to the adjacent property owners.”

Other community members are watching the complaint, hoping that it will bring more transparency to the LEAP project process.

Brian Daggy is a member of the Boone County Preservation Group, which isn’t part of the complaint but is interested in the outcome. He said he doesn’t believe a judge will rule against the city.

“We hope to be a thorn in their side – that’s maybe not the best way to put it,” he said. “This is going to be a delaying action.”

When asked if the goal of the complaint was simply to delay the LEAP project, Andreoli said he does not represent the Boone County Preservation Group and declined to comment.

Daggy, who has long raised transparency concerns about the planned industrial district, said he hopes a delay will give residents time to learn more about the project.

“We just feel like this is one of the last things we have in our toolbox to try to force them to sit down and talk to us further, and provide more clarity and transparency and answer some of the financial questions,” he said.

City officials expressed disappointment with the complaint.

Lebanon Mayor Matt Gentry said the city’s annexation process was by the book.

“I think it’s a Hail Mary pass to try to stop the LEAP project, which is disappointing,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for the state of Indiana, and of course Lebanon as well, to attract these next-generation jobs to provide great opportunities for people of all walks of life.”

“A couple of individuals are trying to muck the works up,” Gentry added.

Regarding specific complaints about the annexation’s extension beyond Center Township without a comprehensive plan, Gentry said the city doesn’t have the authority to create a plan until after it’s been annexed.

“It’s just kind of a guideline – there isn’t anything binding about a comprehensive plan,” he said. “We have not found anything in case law that says you have to have things in your comprehensive plan for things outside of your city. The only way we get planning jurisdiction is if it is within the city limits.”

Gentry said he believes the city will prevail in court.