On Sunday, Governor Andy Beshear permitted Senate Bill 274 (SB 274) to become law without signature. SB 274 officially passed through both chambers of Kentucky legislature on March 17 and would allow the cities, such as Corbin, who were originally chartered in two counties, the opportunity to annex into a third neighboring county on a voluntary basis provided it has existing infrastructure.
The battle for the properties near Exit 29 has been a decades-old issues between the cities of Corbin and London, but regained steam just last year when London’s City Council approved the second reading of an ordinance with the intent to annex said properties in question back in September of last year.
Owners of property along Exit 29 requested annexation into the City of London in late summer prompting the London City Council to consider the annexation. The London City Council went on to pass an ordinance to allow the annexation of the city into the area near Exit 29 at the beginning of this year.
The City of Corbin filed a lawsuit against London in September, arguing the City of London’s plans for annexing the two tracts of property near Exit 29 did not meet the requirements for annexation set forth by Kentucky law. The lawsuit stated that Tract 1 fails to meet requirements as it is not adjacent to London’s current boundaries. Annexing Tract 1 would expand London's boundaries nine miles down I-75, until it reaches the boundaries of Tract 2.
The lawsuit goes on to state that Tract 2 would only meet the adjacent or contiguous requirement once Tract 1 is annexed and argues that the annexation of Tract 2 must be delayed as a result.
“The annexation of Tract 1 is a ruse designed to artificially extend London’s boundaries to Tract 2,” reads the lawsuit. “This is a classic, and prohibited, corridor annexation.”
The lawsuit later points to KRS 81A.427 (3) which directs a city proposing annexation of a property with utility infrastructure owned by a different city to send a notice of the proposed annexation to mayor of the city who owns said infrastructure no later than 14 days prior to meeting of which the second reading of the ordinance will be read. Corbin claims the city of London failed to do so.
The lawsuit is currently still being played out in Laurel Circuit Court, and supporters of SB 274 say the newly signed law would not affect the ongoing litigation, a point reiterated on March 5 by Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester), who sponsored the bill, as he presented the bill to the Senate floor. On that day, Sen. Stivers said he had spoken with legal council for the City of London, who also confirmed the bill would not affect the litigation.
As the bill moved later moved through the House of Representatives, Rep. Regina Huff (R-Williamsburg) of the 82nd District and Tom Smith (R-Corbin) of the 86th District who also supported the bill, said that if London were to win the litigation in Laurel Court, the bill (now law) would be a moot point to the City of Corbin.
Despite this, both Sen. Brandon Storms (R-London) and Rep. Robert Goforth (R-East Bernstadt) of the 89th District cited the on-going litigation in an effort to postpone a vote on the bill in each’s respective chamber. Efforts by both men fell short however, as the roll call vote for postponement in both chambers failed.
The bill was first passed in the Senate by a vote of 20-12-2 on March 5, and then later passed by the House of Representatives just before midnight on March 16 by a vote of 62-25. It was then signed by Senate President Stivers and Speaker of the House David Osborne (R-Prospect), and delivered to Gov. Beshear.