By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — Mayor Kevin Smith said Tuesday that he plans to resurrect the so-called southwest annexation that was part of the city expansion plan rejected by the City Council this past winter.
Smith talked about reviving the annexation attempt during a state-of-the-city speech to the Anderson Noon Rotary Club at the Flagship Enterprise Center
Later in the afternoon, Smith called a special meeting of the Anderson City Council to take up the proposal once more. The meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday at Anderson City Hall.
Smith called the Flagship Center an appropriate setting for his announcement because it has been the focal point of Anderson’s economic growth over the past decade.
“We absolutely have run out of room for this wonderful concept, the Flagship, and the demonstrated ability this city has had over the last nine years to attract global industry,” Smith told the local business executives.
Without more land with Interstate 69 frontage, which is what managers of modern manufacturing operations desire, city officials will have to tell potential “suitors” they will have to look for other cities to fulfill that requirement, Smith said.
“I do not find that is an acceptable alternative for the city of Anderson,” he added. “This is not dictated by just a simple whim, it is dictated by where industry tells us they want to be.”
“I am eager to see what it is that he proposes,” said City Council President David Eicks, D-at large, when told of Smith’s plan. “I’m sure everyone agrees that interstate frontage is the most valuable frontage out there.”
Smith’s Anderson Fast Forward plan was designed to stabilize the city’s population and property tax base and create an economic development corridor by capturing unincorporated frontage along Interstate 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.
While residents living in both areas raised strong objections to the plan, residents in the southwest area were particularly upset by what they said was a blatant land grab that would have required them to pay higher taxes, but offered very little in the way of tangible benefits.
In the midst of the proposals, a group of Lapel area landowners banded together and requested a “super-voluntary” annexation from Lapel to Pendleton. The purpose of that effort, approved by the Lapel Town Council last month, was to block Anderson’s efforts to annex new territory in the region.
If the mayor’s new plan isn’t substantially different from what was proposed in February, Eicks said he will have a difficult time supporting it. He also wonders how the annexation would be financed, since revenue generated from the northeast annexation was supposed to help finance the services in the southwest.
Eicks also reiterated his support for a much smaller “strip” annexation from County Road 700 South to the county line as a way of capturing the economic development potential of I-69, and use tax increment financing for roads and other infrastructure.
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