Posted by: Patricia Salkin | September 20, 2016

NE Supreme Court County Industrial Sewer Construction Act Granted City Standing to Challenge Alleged Illegal Annexation

The City of Springfield, Nebraska, filed an action against the City of Papillion, Nebraska, and the County of Sarpy, Nebraska, seeking to enjoin Papillion from annexing land which had been indicated as Springfield’s area of future growth in a map adopted by the County in 1995. In 1994, the Nebraska Legislature passed the County Industrial Sewer Construction Act. Under the procedures outlined in the Act, a 1995 resolution passed by the County identified a parcel of land south of Highway 370 as part of Springfield’s area of future growth and development. However, in July 2015, Papillion enacted ordinances Nos. 1715 and 1716, which annexed a portion of this area. The district court for Sarpy County found that Springfield lacked standing and Springfield appealed.

The sole issue on appeal was whether the Act granted Springfield an interest sufficient to give Springfield standing to challenge Papillion’s allegedly illegal annexation of that land, despite that land being located outside of Springfield’s boundaries and its extraterritorial jurisdiction for purposes of zoning and platting. The court found Springfield had standing for three reasons. First, since Papillion extended its jurisdiction into Springfield’s area of future growth and development, if Papillion had requested a revision to the map rather than proceeding with annexation, Springfield would have been entitled to notice and a public hearing. Here, Papillion’s allegedly invalid annexation deprived Springfield of this process.

Secondly, once the property at issue in this case was identified as Springfield’s area of future growth and development, the county was required to give Springfield notice of any plans for sewerage system development in that property. Lastly, under § 23–3632, Springfield had a right to appoint three of the six members on the urbanizing area planning commission with jurisdiction over the municipalities’ areas of future growth and development. The planning commission had veto power over applications for residential connections to sewerage systems in those areas, including issues of: zoning, adjustment appeals, replatting, building codes, and permitting arising out of an application for connection.

Moreover, the court found the right to exercise these powers was a personal, legal interest of Springfield’s, regardless of whether it was actively exercising these rights at the time Papillion annexed the disputed territory. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court’s holding, and found that the Act granted Springfield standing to challenge Papillion’s annexation.

City of Springfield v. City of Papillion, 294 Neb. 604 (NE 8/26/2016)

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