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Cumberland joins annexation parade

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CUMBERLAND — Town officials will explore the idea of annexation in a special workshop set for 6 p.m. Wednesday.

While the meeting is simply to gather information, Cumberland is now the fourth community in Hancock County to recently broach the topic of expansion.

Last month, the Fortville Town Council announced a large annexation plan and will hold a public hearing May 29. New Palestine officials are considering annexing several businesses to the west of town limits, and McCordsville officials have drafted a study area for future annexation.

Christine Owens, planning director for the town of Cumberland, said Wednesday’s meeting will gather both the town council and the planning commission for an informational session. Since Cumberland’s 20-year comprehensive plan extends town limits east to Mt. Comfort Road and north to Interstate 70, Owens said it makes sense to advise local officials on how to eventually reach those goals.

“This is just a general training on what it’s all about, and then the council is going to have to direct us if they want to pursue something,” Owens said.

Currently, the town’s eastern boundary is at CR 700W. While some neighborhoods in the town extend north to Interstate 70, the comprehensive plan calls for additional land in Buck Creek Township to eventually be drawn into town limits by extending town lines north to I-70.

Cumberland’s comprehensive plan was updated two years ago, and Owens said several officials have inquired recently about how to move forward. If town limits are extended, mixed-use residential, office park space and industrial property is planned for the eastern and northern portions of the community.

Council President Mark Reynold said he doesn’t know how quickly the council will move on annexing land, if at all.

Still, he said “it’s high time” to have such a meeting because several businesses on U.S. 40 east of town have expressed interested in joining the town to get municipal utilities.

How quickly the town could move on annexation, Reynold said, depends on how costly it would be to bring water and sewer utilities to new areas.

“There’s aspects of annexation where you have to provide services within set time periods,” Reynold said. “We need to look at those and if we can do that.

Still, the town has already planned to extend sewer and water utilities past its current eastern limit. Peer Foods is opening a new meat-packaging plant at 5563 W. U.S. 40 – more than a mile outside current town limits – and the company is paying for the municipal lines to be extended to the  site.

Reynold said ultimately annexation could help with future economic development because other companies would also want to hook on to city utilities. Land that has public utilities is more marketable, he said.

But state annexation law requires cities to provide utilities to new areas within three years of an annexation.

Just how much land or when property will be annexed, Reynold said, will depend on that rule.

The workshop will be held before the town council’s regular meeting, which begins at 7 p.m.

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