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The controversy surrounding London's annexation along Interstate 75 to Exit 29 continues, with London responding to the recent lawsuit filed by the City of Corbin.

Under current law, cities can only annex into two counties. Corbin City Limits extend into Knox and Whitley counties, and although the Exit 29 properties bear Corbin mailing addresses, that area is within Laurel County. The properties in question are those along West Cumberland Gap Parkway from the intersection of U.S. 25-South and U.S. 25-West to the KY 312 bridge on KY 770. The Intent to Annex ordinance, passed last month by the London City Council, specifies that businesses wishing to be annexed into London must border those roadways or be adjacent to those properties. Annexation is strictly voluntary, meaning that although a business property borders the highways, they are not required to be annexed.

Corbin City officials, however, say that the water and sewer lines on the properties along Exit 29 was a $4 million investment on their part and that disqualifies London from annexing that territory. MPI, LLC, a metal producing company located along the West Cumberland Parkway in southern Laurel County, joined the Corbin lawsuit last week.

The answer to Corbin's lawsuit specifies that Corbin cannot currently annex into Laurel County, although Corbin Mayor Suzie Razmus sent southern Laurel businesses along that corridor a letter stating that those businesses could annex into Corbin City Limits.

London City Attorney Larry Bryson, however, countered that proposal, reaffirming the fact that Corbin cannot do so under Kentucky Revised Statutes.

The city's response to the Corbin lawsuit claims that the tract owned by G&M Oil (referred to as 'Tract 1' in the lawsuit) has requested voluntary annexation into the city of London so that development can begin on that property.

"If London is permitted to undertake the annexation of Tract 1, London will expand its boundaries nine miles south primarily along the corridor of I-75 until the boundary limits reach Tract 2. Taken together, London proposes to annex a total of 639 acres of property with over 85% of the annexation representing undevelopable territory along the corridor of I-75," the Corbin complaint states.

London's response is of disagreement with Corbin's description of that property and maintains that the annexation along the interstate is legal, citing a prior lawsuit of "City of Lebanon v. Goodin" in which the courts upheld a "multi-parcel annexation in which each of the parcels was not itself contiguous to the pre-existing city." It further states that Corbin's claim that the territory "is not suitable for annexation" is false under KRS 81A.410(1)(a).

Furthermore, the response claims that the City of Corbin's complaint "fails to state a cause of action upon which relief may be granted" and that there is no controversy between MPI KY, LLC being annexed into London as the annexation ordinance states clearly that businesses may join voluntarily.

The infrastructure on the property is another aspect of the lawsuit and London's answer, as stated: "KRS 81A.490 preserves the right of utilities to serve annexed areas." Accordingly, even if Corbin is found to be a utility infrastructure owner or provider in the annexed territory, Corbin is not aggrieved, harmed or damaged or has any rights or interests threatened or interfered with in any way by Intent to Annex Ordinance 2020-10.

KRS 81A.427(6) states: "If the City annexing or proposing to annex does not receive a municipal order prior to or at the meeting where the ordinance is to receive its second reading, the city may proceed to enact an ordinance proposing to annex or annexing area, and the city owning utility infrastructure shall forfeit its right to object and shall be deemed to have consented to the annexation."

The response by the City of London continues, requesting that the amended lawsuit that includes MPI KY, LLC, be dismissed as "premature," that it lacks the ability to sue, that Corbin failed to file the Certified Municipal Order, and application of the Severability Clause to "sustain as much of the annexation as possible even if it is determined that Corbin owns utility infrastructure in some portion of the territory described in the ordinance and such easements involving utility infrastructure are removed from the annexation by the Court."

njohnson@sentinel-echo.com

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