The Herald Bulletin

March 8, 2013

Landowners move to thwart annexation

Move would block Anderson from I-69 frontage

By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin

LAPEL, Ind. — Think of it as a giant game of Blockus. Or chess.

In both popular strategy games, one key to winning is blocking the moves of your opponents.

A group of Stoney Creek Township and Lapel area landowners think they’ve come up with a way to stymie Anderson Mayor Kevin Smith’s plans to annex nearly 17 square miles of land in their backyards.

Super-voluntary annexation.

It’s a legal move under Indiana law that David Bodenhorn and other property owners opposed to Smith’s plan presented to the Lapel Town Council Thursday night.

Members of the council were delighted to accept, and have set a public hearing on the annexation for April 4.

It’s nothing personal, Town Council President Gary Shuck said.

“When someone makes a move, you have to sit down and figure out the move you have to make. They came to us last night,”

Working with 10 landowners who also disliked Smith’s proposal, Bodenhorn cobbled together a 200-foot strip of land beginning at the southeast tip of Lapel that runs south and east down Pendleton’s town boundary.

A fifth-generation farmer whose mother still lives on the family farm near the corner of County Road 400 South and Indiana 13, Bodenhorn said he was just not ready to accept a “Welcome to Anderson” sign in her front yard.

“I just could not stomach that,” he said.”

The Bodenhorn family owns 700 acres and farms more than 3,300 in the area.

“We’re just a totally different world down here than Anderson,” Bodenhorn said. “We want Anderson to stay in Anderson.”

Like many of the 400 to 500 people who attended a public meeting at Trinity Life Center Wednesday night, Bodenhorn said he just doesn’t see much benefit to being part of Anderson. The promise of Anderson city services doesn’t count for much when weighed against the higher taxes he and other residents believe they will have to pay.

Ronald Wyant, another landowner who agreed to volunteer land for the annexation, said the property taxes he pays in Stoney Creek Township should stay in the township and not go to Anderson. “I just don’t want to be part of Anderson,” he said.

Anderson Interim Economic Development Director Greg Winkler on Friday called events “a rapidly developing scenario,” that city legal officials were evaluating.

“We have begun discussions with city legal counsel,” said Smith. “We’re really looking at how that changes Anderson’s proposal and what effect it would have. My hope is this does not have a negative effect.”

Smith reiterated arguments he’s used to justify the Anderson Fast Forward growth plan unveiled last month.

Anderson, he said, has a proven track record of being able to bring meaningful manufacturing jobs to Anderson that benefit not only the city, but all of Madison County.

Anderson City Councilman Russ Willis, R-District One, said he thinks it is unfortunate that people are looking at Anderson Fast Forward in a totally negative way. “It’s beyond me how people will not even look at or consider the good that can come from this.”

City Council President David Eicks, D-At large, said the proposed annexations are on the City Council’s agenda for Thursday. He declined to predict how the council will vote, but has stated publicly that he generally supports the idea of annexing land adjacent to Interstate 69 for economic development, but not necessarily the vast acreage that Smith wants to absorb into the city.

As Smith has said, Anderson Fast Forward’s goal is to stabilize Anderson’s population and property tax base, and create an economic development corridor by capturing the remaining frontage along Interstate 69 to the Madison/Hamilton County line.

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

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

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