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Village of Agency v. City of St. Joseph Missouri

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, First Division

October 25, 2016

VILLAGE OF AGENCY, MISSOURI, Appellant,
v.
CITY OF ST. JOSEPH, MISSOURI, ET AL., Respondents.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Buchanan County, Missouri The Honorable Randall R. Jackson, Judge

          Before: Thomas H. Newton, Presiding Judge, Cynthia L. Martin, Judge and Edward R. Ardini, Jr., Judge

          Cynthia L. Martin, Judge

         Village of Agency, Missouri ("Village") appeals the trial court's denial of a petition which sought a declaration authorizing an involuntary annexation. Village alleges that the trial court erred in requiring it to prove by substantial evidence that the reasonableness and necessity of the proposed annexation was fairly debatable. Village also alleges that the trial court erred in refusing to consider its desire to regulate nearby land so that it would not be put to a noxious use in determining whether the reasonableness and necessity of the annexation was fairly debatable. We affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background[1]

         Village sought to annex approximately 347 acres of unincorporated land located in Buchanan County, Missouri adjacent to its existing city limits ("Annexed Territory"). City of St. Joseph, Missouri ("City") owns approximately 238 acres of the Annexed Territory.[2]City also owns and operates a landfill that is located west of the Annexed Territory.

         City has previously attempted to expand the landfill into the Annexed Territory by applying for conditional use permits from Buchanan County. Though Village has successfully opposed these applications, it decided in May 2013 to initiate involuntary annexation proceedings "to control how the [Annexed Territory] would be developed in order to maintain the character of [Village] and the quality of life enjoyed by Village residents." [Appellant's Brief, p. 15] The annexation proceedings were initiated pursuant to section 71.015, [3] the Sawyer Act.[4]

         Village held a public hearing to present an annexation plan of intent. The plan of intent was prepared by Earl Huskamp ("Huskamp"), Village's Clerk. The plan of intent provided that the Annexed Territory would remain zoned agricultural. Village's Board of Trustee's authorized the annexation by duly enacted ordinance, and at a subsequent election on November 4, 2014, a majority of the electors in both Village and the Annexed Territory approved the annexation.

         Village then filed a petition seeking a declaratory judgment authorizing the annexation. The trial court entered its judgment on November 18, 2015 ("Judgment") finding that Village failed to put forth substantial evidence to establish that the reasonableness and necessity of the proposed annexation was fairly debatable. The Judgment thus concluded that Village could not proceed with annexation of the Annexed Territory.

         Village filed this timely appeal.

         Standard of Review

         "The standard of review applicable to a decision to annex land is whether there is substantial evidence showing that the reasonableness and necessity of the annexation is at least fairly debatable." City of Centralia v. Norden, 879 S.W.2d 724, 727 (Mo. App. W.D. 1994). The extent of our inquiry is "whether substantial evidence has been presented by the [annexing municipality] to support the determination of its governing body such that reasonable men could differ as to the necessity of the extension." Id. "If there is substantial evidence both ways on the issue of annexation, then the legislative conclusion is determinative." Id.

         Analysis

         Village asserts two points on appeal. Village's first point argues that the trial court erred in requiring Village to establish by substantial evidence that the reasonableness and necessity of the annexation was fairly debatable. Village's second point argues that the trial court erroneously concluded that the reasonableness and necessity of the annexation was not fairly debatable because the ...


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