Archive for Thursday, April 28, 2005

Property owners give up annexation appeal

April 28, 2005

Property owners who sued in an effort to reverse annexation of their land into the city of Lansing have given up their legal efforts.

Property owners Herman Visocsky and Mark Strein had until Friday to appeal a decision last month by Leavenworth County District Judge Robert Bednar that upheld the annexation of about 1,300 acres along Kansas Highway 7 south of the old city limits.

Visocsky said he still had the support of the Kansas Farm Bureau if he and Strein had chosen to appeal the case, but other owners of other annexed properties were no longer financially supporting the legal battle.

"When it came down to it, I didn't want to sign on the dotted line by myself for the $5,000 that would have been required from us," Visocsky said Friday morning.

He and Strein filed suit in December to fight the Nov. 10 decision by the Leavenworth County Commission that allowed Lansing to go forward with the annexation. The city followed up that vote with its own annexation ordinance, which went into effect Nov. 29.

Visocsky and Strein both own land in the affected area and charged in their lawsuit that the County Commission in approving the annexation had acted arbitrarily.

Bednar ruled that both the city and county adhered to rules in place regarding transportation.

"While the Court might look at the evidence presented and draw different conclusions than the County," Bednar wrote, "it is not the role of the Court to substitute its judgment for that of the commissioners unless their decision is not supported by substantial evidence."

Visocsky said he found solace in new legislation that was signed into law last week by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. The bill increases the factors that come under review when a city undertakes a unilateral annexation and it requires district courts, when such an annexation is challenged, to determine whether the annexation is reasonable and the service plan adequate.

"Getting the law on annexation passed was key," said Visocsky, who personally lobbied for the change in law, even though it comes too late for his own situation.

"If we had (the new law in place), there's no doubt in my mind we'd have won the lawsuit," he said.

Visocsky, though finished with the legal battle, said his efforts weren't finished on behalf of property owners facing annexation. He said he wanted the Legislature to approve legislation that would allow Kansans facing annexation to be able to vote on the issue. He said it would allow property owners to control their destiny.

"In Missouri and Colorado, landowners can vote on annexation. Kansans should be able to also. It's a property rights issue," he said.

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