By Lauren Zeugner
SYRACUSE — One thing people should know about Candice Brown is don’t tell her something can’t be done. Brown, a Syracuse resident, came before the Syracuse Town Council during its December meeting requesting her property be disannexed. The matter is still in limbo.
In October, Brown purchased the house formerly owned by Syracuse Clerk-Treasurer Paula Kehr-Wicker and her husband, Robert. The home, located in the Fox Run subdivision, is the only property in the subdivision annexed into the town limits.
Kehr-Wicker and her husband came before the town council at the May 20, 2014, meeting requesting their property be annexed. The property is adjacent to Wawasee High School, which is in the town limits. The council approved the request.
Shortly afterward, Kehr-Wicker announced her intention to run for the Syracuse Clerk-treasurer’s office which she won.
In September 2020, after winning her second term as clerk-treasurer, Kehr-Wicker announced she was resigning and she and her family were moving out of the area.
In an interview held Jan. 19, Brown said she was told by Kehr-Wicker and her husband the property was annexed during the sale of the property. When Brown asked why, they told her it was so Kehr-Wicker could run for public office. Brown asked if the annexation could be removed. At that time Kehr-Wicker said it would be difficult to do. “They made it sound like the odds of it being reversed were hard,” Brown said.
At the December council meeting, Councilman Bill Musser told Brown he had looked into the matter briefly, and believed she would need to get 51% of her neighbors to sign off on removing the annexation. However there is no evidence Kehr-Wicker received permission from 51% of the property owners in Fox Run to have her property annexed back in 2014. The only exhibit with the ordinance is a copy of the property from the plat map. There is not an exhibit with the petitioners names on it.
After some discussion, Vern Landis, town attorney, was instructed by the council to look into the matter, and the council tabled acting on Brown’s request. Prior to the January 2021 council meeting, Brown requested she be put on the agenda to continue the discussion regarding disannexation of her property.
She received a call from Town Manager Mike Noe informing her she would not be put on the agenda, the council did not want to address the issue. He also suggested she hire an attorney. “I don’t understand why they won’t give me a reason, why they don’t want to do it,” Brown said.
Brown has followed Noe’s advice and hired Syracuse attorney Steve Snyder. Snyder said in a brief conversation Jan. 20 disannexation is not hard to do as long as the council is willing to work with the property owner. He helped a mill and brewery in Leesburg disannex itself from the town so it could receive a liquor license.
The Mail-Journal spoke with Matt Sandy of the Kosciusko County Area Planning office. Sandy remembered the 2014 annexation saying he thought it was weird, but not illegal. He said Kosciusko County has not seen many properties be disannexed, the only one being the mill and brewery in Leesburg.
The Mail-Journal also spoke with Michelle Puckett, Kosciusko County auditor, who also described the 2014 annexation as “weird.” She said her office received the ordinance and processed it like it normally would.
Lastly The Mail-Journal spoke with an attorney who has worked on annexation issues. He noted the main question is whether 51% of the subdivision’s property owners have to agree with the disannexation or just the property owners themselves since they represent 100% of the annexed property. Noting Brown was informed of the annexation and wasn’t duped, he, too, said the original annexation was “weird but not illegal.”
The matter did not come up for discussion at the Syracuse Town Council’s February meeting, which was held Tuesday night, Feb. 16.