Panel wants to limit annexation for now
Havre City Council's Planning and Development Committee voted Tuesday evening to recommend the council proceed with annexeing properties where the owners have signed petitions requesting annexation.
But the panel wants to delay other annexations until a lawsuit over the last round is resolved.
"If we have the petitions, we should use the petition method, " said Kelsie Whitney of Bosch, Kuhr, Dugdale, Martin and Kaze, the firm that represents the city.
Whitney, who has been researching the issue for the city, said petitions include language waiving the right to protest annexation.
She said that if the method of annexing property contiguous to the city limits is used, the waiver is not included.
Committee members agreed that due to a pending lawsuit over the annexation in 2009, working on annexation of contiguous properties is a moot point until the courts determine what the boundaries of the city are.
The city annexed more than 100 properties at the end of 2009 following nearly two years of preparation. The city officials said the large number of properties annexed, and the widespread area of annexation, was because the city had not annexed anything for 30 years.
A group of property owners sued, saying the city did not follow proper procedures and illegally attempted to use two different methods to annex the property.
The lawsuit now is back in Havre, with a switch to the fourth judge in the case.
After a request to change judges, Judge David Rice of Havre recused himself and Judge Laurie McKinnon of Shelby assumed jurisdiction on June 1.
Seven days later, after another request to change judges, Judge E. Wayne Phillips of Lewistown assumed jurisdiction.
On March 1, Judge Dan Boucher, who took over as judge in Hill, Liberty and Chouteau counties after Rice retired in November, assumed jurisdiction.
A hearing on the case is scheduled in Havre for July 21, with a non-jury trial expected to last no more than four days set to start Oct. 24.
During the meeting Tuesday, Whitney presented the committee with an updated checklist to follow while going through annexation procedures.
Whitney said the checklist was discovered in her research on the issue, and she and City Attorney Jim Kaze updated it to conform to current laws.