What the May District court ruling effectively does.
In the Standard of Review section the court defined the bounds of its action. The court was limited to deciding if an error of law had been made. Furthermore, the court could decide if an abuse of discretion had been committed by the CDB by taking absurd positions that could not be supported.
Section III in the statement of facts acknowledges that the Des Moines / Carlisle moratorium was poorly constructed and executed. Proper notice was not sent out. The areas described in the agreement and notices does not even include West Carlisle. The court then inserted some of the reasoning for the West Carlisle petition, demonstrating our wishes and desires as we expressed them and then quoted section 368.6 of the Code of Iowa in section IV : "It is the intent of the general assembly to provide an annexation approval procedure which gives due consideration to the wishes of the residents of territory to be annexed and to the interests of the residents of all territories affected by an annexation."
The court reiterated our stand that to be bound by a contract, the parties must agree to the terms and accept the terms and went on to stress that we were not a party to the Des Moines / Carlisle agreement.
That 5% of the electors of a territory have the right to involuntarily annex is recognized.
Section V is where the court first states that the CDB was incorrect in dismissing the West Carlisle petition. Though the court has previously outlined fatal discrepancies in the moratorium, it veered away from invalidating the agreement and thus avoided the problem of voiding just about every other annexation moratorium in the state, though the groundwork for that detonation has been laid. The court concluded that "the CDB's interpretation of the statute was an error of law." Further clarification of this point was made by stating that "West Carlisle cannot violate the Moratorium agreement as they are not party to the agreement." Stating, as we have from the start, that "368.4 does not allow two cities to restrain non-parties to an annexing moratorium from acting to join or doing something to unite themselves with a party to the agreement, so long as neither party to the annexing moratorium initiates the process of unification." (if I read this correctly, even voluntary annexations are not barred.) The court acknowledges that the "involuntary petition" filed by West Carlisle requires only West Carlisle to act affirmatively and West Carlisle was not party to the moratorium agreement.
The court echoed, less assertively, the position of West Carlisle that our constitutional right would have been violated if Des Moines and the State had not been successfully challenged.
One of the most significant features of this decision is the dismissal of the State and City arguments that Federal and State law does not require the assent of the residents of the territory. Basically, the court asserts that case law prior to the enactment of chapter 368 in 1974 is not germane to the present process.
The court further directed the CDB to form a committee, thus properly placing us beyond the 90 day window of opportunity for the CDB to dismiss the petition unless the CDB can cite 368.12 and find another reason to dismiss the petition. Viewing the contorsionistic treatment given the Des Moines petition and possessing that as current precedent, the Board will be very hard pressed to find a comparative reason to do so.
What does this mean for the Des Moines petition? That depends on their actions:
- If they withdraw their petition they chance having every single area that they sought through heavy handed tactics file involuntary annexations to adjacent cities. I personally offer my help to any group of citizens wishing to do so, the actions of the Des Moines city council and administration during the past year have demonstrated the need to avoid coming under their influence.
- If they appeal to the Supreme court, all annexations from Altoona to West Des Moines will be placed on hold while they conduct their appeal. I guess that means they need to develop the vacant land within the current city limits.
John F. Anderson