The Herald Bulletin

June 21, 2013

Council majority shuns latest annexation discussion

Only two of nine members show for special meeting

By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — A special meeting of the City Council called by Mayor Kevin Smith to consider a revised annexation proposal failed for lack of a quorum Thursday, a result that may have ended the mayor’s effort to extend Anderson’s boundaries down Interstate 69.

Smith’s goal with this latest, slightly smaller plan, was intended in part to give the city legal standing to challenge a blocking annexation plan approved by the Lapel Town Council last month.

It wasn’t to be.

Five City Council members must be present to transact official business; and only two were present, Anthony Bibbs, D-at large, and Russ Willis, R-District 1. They were the only two council members who voted for both of Smith’s first annexation proposals. Rodney Chamberlain, D-at large, voted for the southwest annexation, which foundered this past winter.

Reached by telephone 20 minutes before the meeting, City Council President David Eicks. D-at large, criticized Smith for calling it without first checking with council members to see if they would be available. Eicks was calling from Sweetser in Grant County.

”No one checked with anybody to see if anyone was available, which is sad,” Eicks said.

Smith was equally unhappy.

”I feel so compelled as mayor to look out for the best interests for the future of the city that I brought this up for the council to consider,” Smith said, adding that Eicks was aware of the legal deadline the city was facing.

He argued the issue is so vital to Anderson’s future that council members should have shown up to discuss the revised annexation plan regardless of any prior commitments and fulfilled their duties as elected public servants.

”Anderson may only have this one final chance to gain access to the remaining portion of I-69 between us and Indianapolis,” Smith said. “Although Lapel has moved to block Anderson’s ability to attract new jobs, I believe Lapel’s action fails to comply with Indiana’s annexation law.”

The mayor was referring to the Lapel Town Council’s adoption last month of a strip annexation from the Lapel town boundary to Pendleton’s. That so-called super-voluntary annexation was proposed by a group of area landowners specificially to block Anderson’s expansion efforts down to I-69’s exit 214.

Lapel Town Council President Gary Shuck on Thursday said he disagrees with the mayor’s legal assessment, but it likely is a moot point.

While he didn’t know the exact date of when the annexation is scheduled to take effect, Shuck agreed it is imminent. He was anticipating an update from the town’s lawyer later on Thursday, and expected to hear that all legal notice and recording requirements for the proposal have been met.

Anderson Fast Forward was what Smith called his expansive, two-pronged, expansion plan unveiled in February.

It was designed to stabilize the city’s population and property tax base and create an economic development corridor by capturing unincorporated frontage along I-69 to the Madison/Hamilton county line.

The proposed northeast annexation would have absorbed about four square miles in Union and Richland townships and added 2,900 to Anderson’s population, including 1,163 homes, five businesses and 25 miles of road to the city.

The southwest annexation would have encompassed 17 square miles and extended Anderson’s city limits to the Hamilton County line, positioning it to take advantage of the commercial, industrial and residential growth moving north from Indianapolis, Fishers and Noblesville.

Amid his frustration on Thursday, Smith said he doesn’t know what his next move will be to secure Anderson’s economic future.

What he does know, is that commercial and industrial suitors vital to the city’s future demand interstate access. “I think it’s an important, critical need,” said Smith.

Find Stu Hirsch on Facebook and @stuhirsch on Twitter, or call 640-4861.