By Karen Kennedy
A breach of contract lawsuit was filed on July 25 against the City of Carmel by NOAX, a group of citizens of Southwest Clay who opposed annexation.
The origins of this lawsuit reach back to 2004, when the City of Carmel began making overtures to South West Clay regarding the possibility of being annexed into Carmel. South West Clay resisted the annexation, but in November 2004 the Carmel City Council voted in favor of a forced annexation. In February of 2005, a group of citizens formed a coalition called NOAX and filed a successful remonstrance with the Clerk of Hamilton County, including a petition protesting the annexation which was signed by 73 percent of Southwest Clay property owners.
“We (citizens of Southwest Clay) were happy with what we had at the time,” said Councilor Carol Schleif, who represents Southwest Clay. “We didn’t feel that there was much that the city could offer us, and we were worried about the debt load, which at the time was about $200 million. It’s much more now.
In May 2005, the City of Carmel made a settlement agreement to Southwest Clay which was approved by a 59 percent margin. The settlement agreement included promises to the residents of Southwest Clay; most specifically pertaining to drainage improvements in the subdivisions of Bridlebourne, Windemere and Crooked Stick and road improvements in general. However, the NOAX coalition still resisted and took the matter to Superior Court and finally to the Indiana Supreme Court in 2007. The Supreme Court defended the original settlement agreement.
According to both NOAX chairman Fred Yde and Schleif, the drainage improvements promised in the settlement have yet to be made. Per the settlement agreement, the City of Carmel had five years from the settlement’s effective date to finalize and submit an agreeable updated drainage plan. That deadline passed on July 27, 2012. As a result, on July 25, 2013, NOAX filed a complaint against the City of Carmel for breach of contract, and it is awaiting a court date.
In the Aug. 5 council meeting, the council voted to adopt a resolution to withdraw approval of the interlocal agreement between the Hamilton County Drainage Board and the City of Carmel regarding the construction of drainage improvements in the Bridlebourne subdivision, Schleif recused herself from the vote. The resolution means that the county is no longer involved in the process of drainage improvements and the burden falls exclusively on the city.
In an interview, Mayor Jim Brainard said: “Carmel has made every effort to make good on its promises to the residents of Southwest Clay. We have improved police presence on their streets, and we have repaved their roads. Drainage plans that we have proposed have been rejected by NOAX. We are actively working on issues related to the annexation settlement agreement.”
To this, Yde responded: “It is correct that areas of our neighborhoods have been repaved, but not with the same attention to detail and quality that you will find east of Meridian. And the drainage issues require immediate attention. People’s basements are flooding. If we are supposed to be a part of this beautiful city, we would like our services to reflect that.”