The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local News

February 21, 2013

Lapel area residents question Smith annexation plan

Key question: Can we stop this?

LAPEL, Ind. — Mayor Kevin Smith and his economic development team have their sights set on Exit 214 of Interstate 69.

With commercial, industrial and, possibly, residential growth moving north from Fishers and Noblesville in Hamilton County, they view that interchange as a key to Anderson’s future.

To get there, however, the mayor wants to absorb a huge swath of rural Madison County in Stony Creek, Green and Fall Creek townships — nearly 17 square miles in all.

If a special meeting of the Lapel Town Council on Thursday night is any gauge, Smith has a donnybrook of a fight on his hands.

The proposed annexation has quickly become a public relations nightmare; and a legal battle may soon be added to the mix.

Council President Gary Shuck told a group of approximately 50 Lapel area residents that he’s joining Green Township Trustee Greg Valentine in Indianapolis today to meet with a lawyer.

The key question, according to Shuck: How do we fight this?

Technically, there isn’t anything to fight, yet, said Anderson City Council President David Eicks, D-at large. He attended the meeting along with City Councilman Russ Willis, R-District 1.

The City Council tabled two fiscal plans associated with the proposed annexation at its meeting a week ago.

Until those are adopted by a majority vote of the council, and there’s no certainty that will happen anytime soon, the annexation clock will not begin ticking.

Nevertheless, there’s no end to concerns people in the affected areas have about Smith’s plans ranging from impact on school funding and township government, to police and fire protection, and a near-certain increase in property taxes with no clear benefits in return.

When Shuck asked if anyone supported annexation, Anderson’s at least, not a single hand went up.

However, one man who lives in the area, said instead of expanding, Anderson should become smaller to make better use of its existing resources.

And Lapel should move to annex land to develop Exit 214.

“What is wrong with responsible controlled contraction?” asked Brett Wilson. He said Anderson, Pendleton and Ingalls are all sprinting toward the interstate. Lapel should join the race.

“We must step out of our comfort zone and consider annexation,” he said.

Shuck said he isn’t adverse to that concept.

“It sounds like a great idea, and it is a great idea,” he said. But the town simply can’t afford the cost.

“You must provide services and right now we can’t put that on our taxpayers,” he said.

Margo Sink doesn’t live either in Lapel proper or in the proposed annexation area. She does live in the Lapel Fire District, however.

When her husband was seriously injured in a fall not long ago, Sink said paramedics arrived within five minutes. She worries that if Smith succeeds with his plan, the loss of tax revenue will degrade that kind of fast response.

The southwest annexation, as it’s called, would encompass nearly 17 square miles (about 10,880 acres).

The area to be annexed would include land west of Layton Road, extend south around the Flagship Enterprise Center, jog west to the Madison/Hamilton County line south of County Road 400 South and drop south to I-69’s Exit 214 at Indiana 13. About 929 people live in the area, and it would become part of City Council District 3, according to the Anderson mayor’s proposal.

The total estimated cost of providing services in that area would be about $1.4 million, against taxes and user fees of $1.2 million, in 2015, for a net loss of about $205,500.

The city’s presentation showed that while annual property taxes would go up for people whose homes are valued at $100,000 or less, the cost of homeowner insurance (because of a better fire and police protection rating) would drop by a greater amount, and people would pay nearly $100 less per year in trash pickup fees.

The proposed northeast annexation would only be approximately 4 square miles, but would add about 2,900 residents to the city.

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

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