LONG TIME COMING: Bill to allow Corbin to annex into southern Laurel heading to Governor's desk; Corbin mayor ready to 'get to work'

Exit 29 has gone undeveloped over the years. | Photo by Jarrod Mills

For the time being, the battle between the cities of London and Corbin over property in southern Laurel County will continue outside of the courtroom, as both sides have signed an agreed order and their own motions for summary of judgement in the Laurel County Circuit Court Clerk’s office.

Both sides were due in court on Friday, April 9, but instead signed an agreed order stating that the hearing that day would not proceed. The agreed order was filed one day after the City of Corbin filed a motion for summary judgement, which calls for the court to make decision based on the facts of the matter without having the case go to trial.

In its motion and memorandum in support of its motion, the City of Corbin argues points raised in its initial lawsuit filed on Sept. 11, 2020. Arguments include the fact that the two tracts of land in question cannot be annexed simultaneously, and that state law states a city may only annex two areas in simultaneous proceedings when those two areas are both adjacent to the annexing city’s boundary and not adjacent to each other.

Corbin points out that tract one, which is described as territory in the right of way of Interstate Highway 75, the right of way of West Cumberland Gap Parkway and the right of way of Kentucky Route 770 and tract two, described as property located at the intersection of Interstate 75 and West Cumberland Gap Parkway, which is owned by G&M Oil Company, as being adjacent.

Corbin also argues that both tracts are not “suitable” for annexation as KRS 81A.410 requires that an area meet two basic requirements to be “suitable for annexation.” First, the area must be adjacent to the city that wishes to annex boundaries at the time at which the annexation proceeding has begun. Second, the property must be urban in character or suitable for development for urban purposes.

It also argues that London failed to provide proper notice in accordance with KRS 81A.427 (3), which requires a city that wishes to annex any unincorporated area to send notice of the proposed annexation to the mayor of each city government owning utility infrastructure within the proposed area.

The motion states that the City of London argues that the Corbin Utility Commission, not Corbin, owns the utility infrastructure located in the two tracts of land, and that the utility commission is not a “city government” requiring notice.

Corbin provides an affidavit from Ronald Herd, the General Manager of Corbin City Utilities Commission, in which Herd states the utilities commission does not own the water and sewer utility infrastructure, and that based on his experiences as manager of the commission, “Corbin is the owner of the infrastructure located in Tract 1 and the easement on Tract 2,” reads his affidavit.

“Therefore, as the legal owner of the infrastructure, Corbin was entitled to notice pursuant to KRS 81A.427(3),” argues Corbin’s motion.

The agreed order signed by both parties also required the City of London to file a response to Corbin’s motion and to file a motion for summary judgement by the end of April 9, which it did. In its motion, London argues that it was authorized by Kentucky law to simultaneously annex the two tracts of land, and that the properties met statutory requirements required by law.

It argues that Ordinance 2020-17 passed by the City Council did not constitute illegal corridor annexation, and that no advance written notice was required to be made to the City of Corbin, or the City Utilities Commission “because it was reasonable, rational, and based on substantial evidence for London to conclude the City of Corbin did now (sic) own the relevant utility infrastructure.”

In its memorandum in opposition of Corbin’s motion, London makes the argument that the Corbin Utility Commission is what is known as a “Special Purpose Government Entity” as defined by KRS 651.010(9)(a). London argues that because entities such as the utility commission is “governed by its own board, council, commission, committee, authority, or corporation with policy-making authority that is separate from the state and the governing body of the city, county, or cities and counties in which it operates.”

“Thus, the Utilities Commission is not a mere department or ‘arm’ of the City of Corbin as the Plaintiffs’ argue,” reads London’s memorandum. “This separate status is critical to the claim in this action because any utility infrastructure the Utilities Commission may own does not trigger a notice obligation under KRS81A.427.”

“The statutory notice is to be sent to the ‘mayor’ of the ‘city government,’" the memorandum says in reference to the statue. “The Utilities Commission, of course, does not have a mayor in that it is a separate entity. It is not a ‘city government.’”

London also states that regardless of advance written notice from the city, Corbin had advance actual notice of annexation to come before the London City Council using the fact that stories from the first reading of the Intent to Annex Ordinance, ordinance 2020-10, was written about in both the Times-Tribune and Sentinel-Echo as an example.

“Counsel for the City of Corbin, who are, in fact, counsel of record for Plaintiffs in this litigation, made a comprehensive Open Records Act request to the City of London dated August, 25, 2020,” London points out. “[This] plainly evidencing the City of Corbin’s knowledge of the First Reading of Intent to Annex Ordinance 2020-10.”

London goes on to say that while the City of Corbin did send a letter to London on the morning of the second ordinance being passed, a “required Certified Municipal Order objecting to the annexation” was not filed “until long after the statutory deadline” and second reading of London’s ordinance.

The agreed order also sets a schedule for each side to file responses to the other with the City of Corbin having until May 17 to file a response to London’s original response from April 9. Following that, the City of London will have until Tuesday, June 1 to file its response.

At that point, the standing motions shall stand submitted for a decision by the court unless either party makes a motion for oral argument before or on June 11. The court also retains discretion to schedule oral arguments on its own motion even after the June 11 deadline.

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