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March 5, 2013

Logansport council votes in favor of annexation

Logansport City Council voted unanimously in favor of annexing areas south of the city, a move local officials are hoping will allow the city to benefit from anticipated economic development along the Hoosier Heartland Highway.

The proposed areas to be annexed include 549 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.

Mike Shaver, president of Wabash Scientific, Inc., was hired by the city to consult on the project. Shaver recently released a financial plan detailing the costs and expected tax revenues associated with the proposed annexation areas.

According to the financial impact section of Shaver’s report, prepared by Seymour-based Reedy Financial Group PC, projected property tax collections for 2013 in the proposed annexation areas total at $426,092.

Shaver’s report also estimates the total annual cost of city services to the proposed annexation areas to be between $217,000 and $272,000. Two of the larger sums in this part of the report come from the Logansport street department, which would require around $170,000 to $185,000 and the Logansport Police Department, which would require around $86,000 to $100,000 to service the extra areas. While these two figures combined surpass the $272,000 total, LPD services are estimated not to be necessary until 2014 or 2015, while street department services are estimated not to be necessary until 2017 or 2018. These delays combined with one-time costs in the report balance out the total at $272,000.

Shaver said he was in the process of compiling data on how residents in the proposed annexation areas will be affected on an individual basis, which he will make available in coming weeks.

Working alongside Shaver on the annexation project is Jason Stephenson, an attorney with Indianapolis-based Barnes & Thornburg LLP. Having worked on annexation projects in the past, he said he fully expects at least some of the landowners in the proposed annexation areas to have concerns and objections.

“People have very visceral, raw reactions to you doing anything with their property,” Stephenson said. “One of the crucial parts of this is trying to emphasize how this is mutually beneficial. Obviously from the city’s standpoint, you want to control development, but I think there are also benefits that we’re going to focus on to draw out to show to people in the annexed territory that they’re not just looking at taxes.”

Indiana Code states opponents must present objections from 65 percent of the affected landowners to delay a proposed annexation.

Stephen Begley, who lives in the proposed annexation area, said he would not support it.

“I moved to the county because I like the county,” Begley said. “I don’t want to be a part of the city. There’s too much politics going on in the city that we don’t get out here.”

Terry Grigsby also lives in the proposed annexation area. He said his stance on the issue mattered little when up against the city’s motives.

“They’ll do whatever they want anyway,” Grigsby said. “Whatever happens happens. If they’re going to annex me in, they better give me sewer and water.”

Shaver said landowners in the proposed annexation areas not currently connected to city utilities are not required to do so, nor is it required for the city to extend utilities throughout the entire annexation areas at once.

“You can do that as development proceeds and as development occurs,” Shaver said. “So you’re not going to have an upfront cost of $20 million to run interceptor sewers all throughout the countryside.”

City officials expressed a desire to quicken its annexation plans after learning of a bill making its way through the Indiana General Assembly that states cities wouldn’t be allowed to annex land valued at more than 15 percent of the city’s assessed value per year.

Franklin said the current assessed value of the city is about $358 million, 15 percent of which is around $51 million.

City council and the consultants assisting with the annexation project will be holding a public hearing on the matter May 20. The council will conduct a final vote to adopt the annexation June 24.

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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