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February 13, 2014

Ruling awaited in Dial case

Ada — City officials and landowners challenging the city’s recent annexation decision are waiting for a court ruling in the case.

District Judge Tommy Landrith presided over the trial on Jan. 14 but has not issued a ruling yet, landowner Nathan Dial said Thursday. He said he thought the trial went well and is awaiting the judge’s decision.

“We have high hopes for it,” he said.

Seminole attorney Jack Cadenhead, who represents the landowners, said he could not predict how Landrith would rule.

“I know how I want him to rule, but I don’t know what he’ll do with it,” Cadenhead said.

Ada’s attorney, Frank Stout, was not immediately available for comment.

Dial and several other landowners are suing the city over a February 2013 decision to annex four parcels of land along Stonecipher Boulevard — including Dial’s property — into the city limits. That property was zoned as a suburban district.

Cadenhead said the trial focused on three issues, including whether the city complied with state law in annexing the property. Under the law, city officials must have written consent from a majority of the landowners in a district before annexing their property.

The landowners are also challenging the Chickasaw Nation’s consent to the annexation. Cadenhead said the city based its ordinance on a letter from the nation’s governor, who agreed to the annexation.

“That property is actually owned by the United States government in trust for the Chickasaw Nation,” Cadenhead said in an email to an Ada News reporter. “The United States did not consent in writing to the annexation. Thus, the first issue is whether the city obtained a valid consent under the law.”

The trial also raised the question of whether the city provided proper notice of the proposed annexation, Cadenhead said. He said the rules require the city to notify property owners about the proposed annexation if their land is at least five acres, used for agricultural purposes and located next to the boundary of the territory in question.

During the trial, the city stipulated that officials did not notify any of the adjacent landowners about the proposed annexation, Cadenhead said. He said some of those landowners testified about the agricultural use of their property and the city’s failure to notify them about the annexation.

The landowners are asking Landrith to invalidate the annexation ordinance and reverse the city’s refusal to detach their property from the city limits. If the judge rules in the landowners’ favor, the property would remain outside the city’s boundaries.

The annexation lawsuit is part of Dial’s ongoing legal dispute with the city over his property.

Following annexation, Dial sued the city over the city’s decision to rezone his property from a general commercial district to suburban agricultural. He told The Ada News in October 2013 that he was tired of fighting City Hall, so he dropped the lawsuit and moved forward with construction of his auto repair shop.

In the meantime, city officials are looking at whether to retain the current zoning classification for the property at the heart of the annexation dispute.

Under city regulations, all annexed property is initially designated as a residential zone. That designation remains in place for a year while the Metropolitan Planning and Zoning Commission studies the issue.

The zoning board makes a recommendation to the Ada City Council, which decides whether to retain the current classification or change it.

The city council was originally set to consider the zoning classification on Feb. 3, but the discussion was tabled at Stout’s request. The council has scheduled a public hearing and possible action for Feb. 18.

Contact reporter Eric Swanson at adanewsreporter@cableone.net.

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