When the Gluckstadt incorporation effort began in earnest 12 and a half years ago, residents had hoped to be a city within a year. 

Last week marked the third anniversary of a legal battle to incorporate as the county’s fifth municipality, a notion that was first floated more than 20 years ago.

Since all of the litigation was rolled into one big Supreme Court case last spring, residents are hoping to be a city within a year as the final deadline for briefs approaches next week.

Developer Ron Hutchinson appealed Judge James Walker’s ruling in favor of Gluckstadt’s incorporation in 2019 after he had supported residents initially but then suspected zoning may not go his way in the new city.

The city of Canton also signed on to that appeal while fighting its own annexation battled against a handful of businesses that did not want to be incorporated into Canton.

Now, all of those lawsuits have been rolled into the one Supreme Court case.  With multiple cases involving the same appellants and appellees, the court consolidated them in April 2018.

Attorneys for the city of Canton are expected to file their brief to show cause for its appeal of a ruling from Chancery Court Judge James Walker that would have allowed Gluckstadt to incorporate in April of last year. 

Hutchinson’s original appeal argued there was an issue with the voter role in the proposed new city that nullified the area resident’s petition to incorporate.

Walter Morrison, who is designated in Gluckstadt’s incorporation filing as mayor, said he hopes a Supreme Court ruling will bring the three-year legal battle to a swift conclusion.

“We are about as frustrated as it gets, especially considering all the people who did all the work to get (the incorporation) done,” Morrison said. “Mr. Hutchinson supported it until he realized it might not immediately be in his best interest, then the city of Canton piled on. But once they submit their brief and we respond, hopefully this will all be over within the year.”

Attorneys for the City of Canton are expected to make as many as three arguments - that the new city of Gluckstadt’s proposed borders would hinder the existing city’s path of growth to the west, that its request to annex five pieces of land in that area in 2018 was erroneously blocked by the courts and that Judge Walker’s ruling allowing Gluckstadt to incorporate was unjustified.

It could also focus on testimony regarding the voter role irregularities from the original case.

Canton was awarded the annexation of two of the five areas it initially proposed to absorb, but that judgement is being contested by Peco Foods Inc., Kingston Place LLC, Kingston Place II LLC, Lula B. Covington LP and LLM Inc. - all of which filed appeals to their incorporation.

Once the City of Canton’s brief is filed, attorneys for the appellees - Gluckstadt’s Incorporators and the five businesses - will have 30 days to file a response or a request for more time.

Attorney John Scanlon, one of the attorneys representing the Gluckstadt Incorporators, said Monday the burden to show Walker ruled in error is on the appellants.

“We have evidence to support our arguments,” Scanlon said. “They are certainly entitled to make their argument under the court rules. I’d love to get it done in 30 days, but now that its consolidated, it’s one huge case with a massive record from two different trials that were both a month long.”

The incorporation fight is not the only court battle between Hutchinson and area residents. The developer is fighting an appeal from Gluckstadt’s incorporators seeking to overturn a vote from the Madison County Board of Supervisors which granted Hutchinson permission to build a road directly from his businesses to Gluckstadt Road.

The residents claim the road was not a part of the original plans presented to and approved by supervisors, and that the board’s decision to nullify a tenet of the agreement between the residents and the developer without their support makes its ruling arbitrary.

That case is in the early stages in the county’s circuit court, while Hutchinson has already begun construction of the road.