Pharos-Tribune

August 8, 2012

Annexation the new huge issue


— Where do we draw the line?

That’s the question city officials periodically determine as they consider the viability of the tax base within their city limits and the natural progression of community growth happening outside the boundaries.

During a 20-minute Logansport City Council meeting Monday night, the council approved an annexation feasibility study. How far that study will move toward extending the city limits is anyone’s guess, but the key word in this sentence so far is feasibility.

There also is a political component to consider. Expanding the boundaries in some directions will likely add more registered voters of one persuasion than another.

Some possible areas that will have to be considered:

1. Longtree Lane. The Eastwood area is outside the city limits. Since 1970, much of the annexation of Logansport has involved the area east of what is now the Manor Motel. The area includes the Logansport Mall, Cass Plaza and Eastgate Plaza. Annexation also could pick up the Point East area further east.

2. Marleton Hills. This may be the prime location for living outside the city limits in Logansport. It is minutes from Landis Elementary, Lincoln Middle and Logansport High schools. But a previous projection for returning the value on annexation to the city was more than 20 years. The “hills” part of Marleton Hills makes it a poor candidate because elevations require lift stations for utility lines, and that adds cost. Deer Run, a newer subdivision near Landis, also would be a candidate. It conceivably has fewer elevation issues, but has far fewer properties.

3. Logansport State Hospital. This is an easy target for city officials because other state hospitals like it have been annexed. Opponents of annexation for the hospital will say it has no property tax value, but it does have utility lines that could be extended further southwest and the city has used the wells for the Logansport Water Department since the 1990s. If state officials ever privatize the hospital, it would represent a huge bonus for the city. Annexing the hospital also would increase the population of the city considerably which would boost any federal or state grant funding based solely on population.

4. Cass/Logansport Industrial Park. It took state law to allow annexation of it back in the 1990s, but there is area around it and the Logansport-Cass County Airport that warrants review. With a new four-lane highway between the industrial park and the traditional city limits one mile north and utility lines already running along Ind. 329, it stands to reason that the time to annex much of that area is probably now.

5. The west side. It’s a patchwork quilt of annexed areas west of Logansport, and limestone may create a problem for some areas such as The Boulders housing development west of the U.S. 35 Bypass. One added bonus of this annexation could potentially come in the form of utility easements. This area is the missing link in a trail system that runs from Winamac to France Park along a 29-mile section of old railroad right-of-way and the Little Turtle Waterway and River Bluff Trails in downtown Logansport. The trail and annexation could spur development west of the city north of the Wabash River.

6. Northern Heights. This area has benefited from water and sewer lines extended in the 1990s. Water and sewer lines were extended at the time because of septic system problems along the northern edge of the city. Adding areas such as the former Myers Lanes and other areas north of the city as far as 200 North might make sense. The land is relatively flat and developed, and annexation could include the Terpstra Drive area.

7. Chase Road. In a roundabout way, pun intended, development continues along this road that includes both the city and the county.

8. Potawatomi Road, Capitol Street and the Unger Addition. One of the community’s drawbacks in these areas is the number of homes that have previously had water and septic system problems. As mentioned previously, limestone can be a problem and is in these areas, particularly the Unger Addition.

The barrier greater than limestone to annexation is the political brimstone in some areas. With a Republican mayor and 6-1 majority on the city council, annexing heavily GOP areas along Chase and Longtree would make sense if Republicans can convince their following they need the votes to retain party control in the city.

What should be noted, regardless of what party leads a city or the political affiliation of residents outside it is that annexation benefits a community. It spreads a tax base out over more households and businesses and can relieve the burden on some, but it also can lower utility rates and trash pickup costs for those living outside the city limits now. More police protection also is a benefit.

Logansport was progressive in annexing many areas along High Street in the 1990s, and without annexation throughout the years, Logansport and the community outside it would likely not be what they are today. Higher taxes are a reality of annexation, and that also is a reality of progress. Balancing the two is a difficult task that requires a buy-in from both the city and the residents who will be affected.

• Dave Kitchell is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached through the newspaper at ptnews@pharostribune.com.