CUMBERLAND — Town officials are moving forward with what they say could be a new economic development horizon for Cumberland.
A public hearing on a 182-acre eastward annexation plan Wednesday yielded only positive comments, sending the plan forward to final approval March 26.
“The only people we’ve talked to are in support of this,” said Andrew Klinger, Cumberland town manager.
Klinger said town officials hope new retail or restaurant developments would locate on the east side of town. If the land is within Cumberland limits, he said, town officials can specify zoning regulations to bring in quality development.
“The development standards in Cumberland are going to be better than the development standards they have now,” Klinger said.
The plan expands the town mostly south of U.S. 40, from CR 800W to CR 700W, across the road from the Cumberland Heights and Glen Oaks Village neighborhoods, which are already inside town limits.
The annexation plan is involuntary, meaning it was initiated by the city and not with the consent of property owners. But the plan only affects 28 residents in roughly 50 single-family homes. There’s also 10,000 square feet of commercial property in the area.
The land is currently all zoned commercial, but most of it – 125 acres – is used for agriculture.
The council unanimously adopted a fiscal plan in December.
While the current net assessed value of the area is $2 million, that’s estimated to quadruple to $8 million in five years, according to the fiscal plan, bringing in greater revenue for the town.
The 2013 tax rate for those living in the area now is $2.40 per $100 of assessed valuation; that would rise to $3.33 after the annexation. How that would affect property owners’ tax bills is more difficult to determine, because property tax law in Indiana allows residents to pay only up to 1 percent of their homes’ assessed valuation.
Local resident Ron Sanders spoke in favor of the annexation plan. Owner of two acres divided into three properties, including Shambles Furniture Restoration, Sanders said it’s better to have decisions about Cumberland’s east side made closer to home. Now, he pointed out, the area is governed by Hancock County.
“We just envision driving west on U.S. 40, coming into Cumberland to something a little more attractive,” Sanders said. “I’d just like to see a little more control of what we have.”
Former councilman Don Engerer asked the group how the area would be drawn politically, asking whose council district the new territory would fall under. The council didn’t have an answer but said an answer would be found.
Sugar Creek Township Trustee Bob Boyer urged the council to consider fire and ambulance protection for the area. The Sugar Creek Volunteer Fire Department currently covers the area, and Boyer said the council should consider an agreement with the township board for payment for continued services; otherwise, he said, the township could lose money on the deal.
“We can provide better protection for that area than someone else because we’re used to it. We know the territory,” Boyer said.
The council said it would be willing to meet with Boyer regarding fire protection. Cumberland currently uses Buck Creek Volunteer Fire Department to cover the Hancock County side of the community and the Indianapolis Fire Department for the Marion County side.
Council President Joe Siefker said he hopes the annexation will mean more chances for economic development for the community in the near future. He said small amounts of annexation at a time are appropriate for a community.
“It allows us to be able to better market the area of the town for future development,” he said.