The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Local Politics

March 16, 2013

Council members: Annexation failure could foster cooperation

Mayor’s proposal seen as costly, divisive

ANDERSON, Ind. — In the end, there was probably little chance Mayor Kevin Smith’s expansive Anderson Fast Forward annexation proposals would be approved.

They were large, complex, costly and controversial from the outset.

The goal of Anderson Fast Forward, which Smith unveiled early last month, was to stabilize Anderson’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.

Opposition to both proposals developed swiftly and was vocal. Faced with an angry crowd of opponents last month when it first considered the plans, the City Council tabled a vote to introduce the resolutions and fiscal plans that would have formally started the annexation process.

Thursday night, the City Council rejected both plans.

“I just didn’t feel it was in the best interests of the people of Anderson,” said Ollie Dixon, D-District 4.

“I didn’t want to get into stretching out into Lapel.”

And certainly the people who lived in Stoney Creek and Green Townships, didn’t want to be considered part of Anderson, a view that was pointedly expressed at two Anderson City Council sessions and public meetings in the affected southwest townships and in Lapel.

Dixon said he would have been able to support a much smaller and focused annexation, but was told there was no room for compromise. “We were told it was an all or nothing proposition,” Dixon said.

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 roads to the city.

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

City Council President David Eicks, D-At Large, said he proposed a much smaller “strip” annexation from County Road 700 South to the county line as a way of capturing the economic development potential of Interstate 69.

He said Tax Increment Financing District money could be used to develop the roads and infrastructure to make that area more attractive to potential commercial and industrial developers.

He also believes the city could have worked more cooperatively with officials in both Pendleton and Lapel.

“I truly believe the governments need to sit down and work together to do what’s best for all the citizens of Madison County.”

Although property between Anderson and the county line is still largely rural, Eicks said, it won’t stay that way as growth and development continues to push north from Fishers and Noblesville.

“Do I see a lot more of that land being developed in the future? I certainly do,” Eicks said.

Eicks said that after the dust settles from the Anderson Fast Forward battle, leaders from Anderson, Pendleton and Lapel can meet to discuss mutually acceptable economic development options.

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

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