June 25, 2013

Consultant proposes decreasing annexation areas

Agriculture property exemptions pose some concerns.

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune

---- — A consultant assisting Logansport officials has recommended decreasing the city’s proposed annexation areas after determining the permanence of an an agricultural tax exemption might cause future problems and that the exemption itself would not be as inclusive as first predicted.

Logansport City Council has voted in favor of a first reading of a measure annexing two bordering areas in Washington Township south of the city, with officials citing the motivation as being harnessing economic development along the soon-to-be-finished Hoosier Heartland Corridor.

Since this initial vote and several public meetings on the matter, it has been determined that because an amendment passed by the Indiana General Assembly in April allowing for a permanent tax exemption for annexed agricultural properties would be too much of a burden to bear compared to the 10-year exemption outlined in the statute’s original language.

Mike Shaver, president of Wabash Scientific, Inc., who was hired to consult on the annexation plans, highlighted this point and others in a presentation to Logansport City Council Monday.

”This change places a significant financial burden on the city,” Shaver writes of the state’s removal of the 10-year limit in his presentation, “which potentially creates a public policy problem for the city.”

Furthermore, Shaver has recommended excluding portions of the originally-proposed annexation areas after concluding industrial activities are taking place on some agriculturally-zoned properties and that it wouldn’t be appropriate to offer these areas the agricultural exemption. He goes on to state these activities are not in the wrong, as industrial activities are permitted on agriculturally-zoned land.

”The problem lies in the fact that the zoning laws and regulations are in conflict with the apparent legislative intent of the ag exemption,” Shaver writes.

In light of this, Shaver has ultimately recommended removing more than 100 parcels from the original plan and that no agricultural exemption be offered to the southeast annexation area because of the industrial uses on agriculturally-zoned properties there.

Shaver goes on to recommend keeping the exemption for the southwest area, but excluding a substantial number of residential properties from the annexation entirely.

Lisa Hanson, a Washington Township resident serving on a committee nominated to represent landowners in the annexation areas, considered the reductions discussed at Monday’s meeting “great progress,” but still holds concerns regarding how code enforcement will affect areas that are annexed.

”We still have to go forward with the ordinances we’ve been talking about,” she said, alluding to statutes that will allow for burning trash and raising livestock. Although these activities are illegal by Logansport standards, many residents of the proposed annexation areas have expressed a desire to be able to continue these activities and city officials have in turn conveyed drafting legislation allowing them to do so.

City council is scheduled to cast its second of three votes on the annexation proposal at its July 1 meeting, where it can be amended according to Shaver’s recommendations. Logansport Mayor Ted Franklin said the final vote will likely be held July 8.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or