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Dillon Real Estate Co. Inc. v. City of Topeka

July 27, 2007

DILLON REAL ESTATE CO. INC., MISSION TOWNSHIP, SHERWOOD IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT, STATE OF KANSAS EX REL. PHIL KLINE, ATTORNEY GENERAL, APPELLANTS/CROSS-APPELLEES,
v.
THE CITY OF TOPEKA, APPELLEE/CROSS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from Shawnee district court; CHARLES E. ANDREWS, JR., judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1 When the essential facts are not in dispute, appellate review of a district court's summary judgment decision is de novo.

2. Statutory interpretation is a question of law providing for de novo appellate review.

3. The power of a municipality to alter its boundaries by annexation is vested absolutely and exclusively in the legislature, and this power is therefore completely controlled by statute. As a result, the failure of a city to comply with requirements of the legislative enactment which gave it power and authority to annex territory nullifies the attempted annexation ordinance.

4. The fundamental rule to which all other rules are subordinate is that the intent of the legislature governs if that intent can be ascertained. An appellate court must give effect to that intent, which the legislature is initially presumed to have expressed through the language it used. When language is plain and unambiguous, there is no need to resort to statutory construction. An appellate court merely interprets the language as it appears; it is not free to speculate and cannot read into the statute language not readily found there.

5. Like statutory interpretation, the constitutionality of a statute is a question of law subject to an appellate court's de novo review.

6. A statute is presumed constitutional, and all doubts must be resolved in favor of its validity. If there is any reasonable way to construe a statute as constitutionally valid, the court must do so. A statute must clearly violate the constitution before it may be struck down. An appellate court not only has the authority, but also the duty, to construe a statute in such a manner that it is constitutional if the same can be done within the apparent intent of the legislature in passing the statute.

7. For a statute to pass constitutional muster under the rational basis standard, it must meet a two-part test: (1) It must implicate legitimate goals, and (2) the means chosen by the legislature must bear a rational relationship to those goals.

8. The legislature is presumed to not enact useless or meaningless legislation, and an appellate court's interpretation of a statute should avoid absurd or unreasonable results.

9. When an appellate court is construing an ambiguous statute, the court is not limited to the mere consideration of the language employed, but may also look to the historical background of the enactment, the circumstances accompanying its passage, the purposes to be accomplished, and the effect the statute may have under the various suggested constructions. Additionally, legislative intent is to be determined from a general consideration of the entire act. An appellate court's duty, as far as practicable, is to harmonize different statutory provisions to make them sensible.

10. Under the facts of this case, (1) K.S.A. 12-520(c) is constitutional and bars the City of Topeka's efforts to annex part of the Sherwood Improvement District; and (2) K.S.A. 12-536 does not bar the plaintiffs' suit contesting the City's annexation.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nuss, J.

Reversed and remanded with directions.

This case arises out of the City of Topeka's efforts to unilaterally annex property pursuant to K.S.A. 12-520. The property is located within both the Mission Township and the Sherwood Improvement District, a district created by Shawnee County pursuant to K.S.A. 19-2753. Dillon Real Estate Co., Inc. (Dillon) owns part of the annexed property.

The City's attempt greatly relies upon consents to annexation filed by Dillon's predecessors approximately 8 years earlier. Dillon, however, did not consent. Along with the improvement district and the township, it filed suit to contest the annexation. After considering competing motions for summary judgment, and reconsidering its earlier ruling, the district court essentially allowed part of the improvement district to be annexed. Our jurisdiction is pursuant to K.S.A. 20-3018(c) (transfer from the Court of Appeals on our motion).

The parties have raised numerous, often overlapping, issues. Our recasting of the issues, and our accompanying holdings, are as follows:

1. Does K.S.A. 12-520(c) bar the City's efforts to annex part of the improvement district? Yes.

2. Is K.S.A. 12-520(c) unconstitutional? No.

3. Does K.S.A. 12-536 nevertheless bar plaintiffs' suit contesting the annexation? No.

Accordingly, we reverse the district court.

FACTS

By ordinance, in December 2003 the City Council of Topeka (City) announced its annexation of approximately 10 acres at the southwest corner of the intersection of 29th Street and Urish Road. The property is within both the Mission Township and the Sherwood Improvement District, an improvement district as defined by K.S.A. 19-2753 and created by Shawnee County before January 1, 1987. Dillon Real Estate Co., Inc., (Dillon) owns part of the annexed property.

According to the ordinance, the City proceeded via K.S.A. 12-520(a)(1) (land is platted and some part adjoins the city) and (a)(7) (consensual annexation by the owner). It relied upon consents filed by Dillon's predecessors approximately 8 years earlier to satisfy the requirements of 12-520(a)(7) and thus to obtain the advantages of 12-520a(f)--eliminating as prerequisites to annexation the City's resolution of annexation, public notice, and public hearing. Accordingly, the City did not provide notice of its action to, among others, Dillon, the improvement district, the township, or the county.

Dillon itself did not consent. Along with the improvement district and the township, in January 2004, it filed suit to contest the annexation. The State later joined them as an intervenor. Dillon and its fellow plaintiffs (collectively Dillon) principally argued that K.S.A. 12-520(c), which concerns annexation of improvement districts, barred the City's efforts.

On competing motions for summary judgment, the district court ruled that K.S.A. 12-520(c) was constitutional but that Dillon's predecessors in title consented to annexation. Because such consent was recorded with the register of deeds, Dillon took the property with notice and could not object to the annexation. It also ruled that the improvement district, the township, and the State lacked standing to challenge the City's actions.

The district court reconsidered its initial order and revised its ruling, holding that the improvement district and the State--but not the township--had standing. It further ruled that K.S.A. 12-520(c) only precluded annexation of the entire district, and that the City was not prohibited from annexing a part of it.

Plaintiffs appealed, and the City cross-appealed.

ANALYSIS

The essential facts are not in dispute. Additionally, our analysis will require statutory interpretation. Consequently, our review of the district court's summary judgment decision is de novo. See Bomhoff v. Nelnet Loan Services, Inc., 279 Kan. 415, 419-20, 109 P.3d 1241 (2005) (summary judgment review where facts undisputed); Schmidtlien Electric, Inc. v. Greathouse, 278 Kan. 810, 819, 104 P.3d 378 (2005) (statutory interpretation is a question of law providing for de novo appellate review).

Issue 1: K.S.A. 12-520(c) bars the City's efforts to annex part of the improvement district.

For a city to alter its boundaries by annexation, it must follow Kansas statutes. Crumbaker v. Hunt Midwest Mining, Inc., 275 Kan. 872, 884, 69 P.3d 601 (2003) ("[T]he power of a municipality to alter its boundaries by annexation is vested absolutely and exclusively in the legislature, and this power is therefore completely controlled by statute, i.e., K.S.A. 12-519 et seq."). As a result, the "failure of a city to comply with requirements of the legislative enactment which gave it power and authority to annex territory ...


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