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April 5, 2013

Residents planning protest of annexation

More than 50 gather to sign petition, discuss options

Residents in Washington Township are preparing to fight Logansport’s annexation plans as the city gets ready for future meetings and votes on the matter.

The proposed areas to be annexed include about 500 parcels of land and about 100 houses to the south of the city. The border between Clinton and Washington Townships would serve as the western boundary of the annexation, going south to 400 South, then east to 50 East. The boundary would then go north to 300 South, boxing in the Logansport Municipal Airport and industrial park, then span east to 325 East before squaring back off at the city.

The annexation would exclude the land containing the homes between Stoney Pike Road and South River Road because the area provides little development opportunities and would require expensive utility installations to existing homes, according to Mayor Ted Franklin and consultants hired to assist with the project.

Franklin said the motivation behind the annexation is to include part of the Hoosier Heartland Highway within the city in an effort to attract developers and increase economic development.

Indiana Code states opponents must present objections from 65 percent of the affected landowners to delay a proposed annexation. As there are about 300 landowners in the proposed annexation area, their petition would have to include about 200 names.

More than 50 residents living in the proposed annexation area gathered at Fire Station 2 in Washington Township Wednesday to start a petition, discuss legal options and strategize how to spread the word.

At a previous meeting, a group of Washington Township residents was nominated to lead the effort. Terri Ayers is one of the members serving on this committee.

“We’re a group of neighbors trying to figure out how we feel about this and how to move forward,” Ayers said. “It will become more official as we go.”

Doug Weaver, a resident in the proposed annexation area, signed the remonstrance Monday. He called the city’s actions an infringement on his and his neighbors’ rights.

“We made the decision not to live in the city and now this is being thrust on people who have no chance to vote on it,” Weaver said.

At the meeting, residents discussed whether they wanted to hire a local attorney or go solicit someone with experience in handling annexations. Although a lawyer from another city would likely cost more, residents said they would like to research the matter further so as to make the best case for their cause.

Indiana state law requires Logansport City Council to hold three votes and a public hearing on the annexation measure. Last month at its first reading, city council voted in favor of annexing the proposed areas. The public hearing has been scheduled for May 20 and the final vote on the matter is scheduled for June 24.

Mike Shaver, president of Wabash Scientific, Inc., was hired by the city to consult on the project.

While a financial report prepared by Seymour-based Reedy Financial Group PC projected 2013 property tax collections in the proposed annexation areas to total $426,092, Shaver said he did not yet know what the impact would be on a property-by-property basis until he knows how the area will be zoned. He said he will be working with Logansport-Cass County Planning Director Arin Shaver to determine these details soon.

“I would expect there are some people whose taxes are going to go up,” Shaver said.

One factor that will have an impact on how the proposed annexation area could be zoned, which would in turn affect how it would be taxed, is a recently changed state law that currently prohibits the city from allowing agricultural landowners in an annexed area a 10-year property tax exemption. Mayor Ted Franklin and consultants assisting with the annexation project said they are working with Sen. Randy Head and Rep. Bill Friend to get the law changed back to allow for the exemption.

Should the law be changed back and should the Logansport-Cass County Planning Department decide to zone any of the annexed areas as agricultural, those landowners would be eligible for the 10-year exemption.

Lisa Hanson, a Washington Township resident who is also serving on the unofficial committee nominated to lead the opposition effort, said at the meeting that this tax abatement would only be applicable to Washington Township residents who currently own agricultural property. If they were to sell if and when the annexation goes through, Hanson said, it would be considered city property and the abatement would not apply to the new owner.

Along with working out the language in the state law regarding tax exemptions for annexed areas, Franklin said he is also working to remove the 25 percent outside-city utility surcharges for customers in the annexation area and reducing the cost of trash collection.

Many Washington Township residents at the meeting Wednesday dismissed Franklin’s proposed benefit of reducing trash collection fees, saying they burn their trash and aren’t paying fees anyway.

Mike Shaver has also said at public city meetings that residents in the proposed annexation areas who aren’t currently connected to the city’s utilities to do so,  nor is it required for the city to extend utilities throughout the entire annexation areas at once.

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

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