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Towns progressing on annexation plans


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LOOKING AHEAD: ANNEXATIONS

This is part of a continuing series of stories examining what to expect in 2014, from government to courts to schools.

 

HANCOCK COUNTY — Local towns will continue to move forward with plans for growth this year, wrapping up annexation proposals that were introduced in 2013.

But Fortville’s annexation plan, which caused the most controversy, remains in a state of limbo pending an April 21 trial date in which a remonstrance will be heard in Hancock Circuit Court.

“It’s a red-letter date on many of our calendars,” said Susie Whybrew, a member of the group called Fight Against Forced Annexation. “When that court date was set, we started encouraging people to mark their calendars and plan to be there.”

The Fortville annexation, which includes 65 homes, 644 acres, 97 parcels and 162 residents, is set to finally be decided at the trial. Vernon Township residents who do not want to see their homes or farms incorporated have made their case for months – 91 percent of affected residents signed a petition against the annexation – while town officials have said that the annexation is in the best interest of Fortville’s future.

While both opponents and proponents are in a holding pattern until April, one Fortville couple points out that at least the town’s streets were well taken care of in this week’s snowstorm. That’s a benefit that could belong to annexed residents if the plan goes through, Milda and Bob Sterrett say.

“I think our guys did a fantastic job, and it was a lot better than most of the county roads,” Milda said.

Her husband, Bob, pointed out that some people want to come into Fortville territory for water and sewer service. The plan to expand the town, he said, makes sense for the community.

“It’s not anything about a land grab,” he said. “It’s about controlling our future.”

Next door in McCordsville, plans for annexation to the south are not yet concrete. The South Gateway Area, the name of the plan that would extend McCordsville’s boundaries to the south and southeast, was introduced last year, but no official drawings for an annexation have been announced yet.

“We’ll continue looking at our growth strategy,” said Tonya Galbraith, McCordsville town manager. “We haven’t looked at how much we want to do, but we are looking at going south.”

In Cumberland, town officials met with only one resident this week on a proposed 182-acre involuntary annexation that would expand the community by 15 percent.

Planner Christine Owens said the weather probably had something to do with the low attendance at a meeting Tuesday, and officials are trying to plan another date soon to meet with property owners. About 50 single-family homes are in the proposed Cumberland annexation area, which would expand the town mostly south of U.S. 40, from CRs 800W to 700W.

A Feb. 19 public hearing is scheduled for the Cumberland plan, with possible approval slated for March 26. Owens said so far she hasn’t heard whether people are generally in favor or against the proposal.

New Palestine and Greenfield officials approved annexation plans in late 2013 with little or no public comment. The New Palestine Town Council approved a 153-acre westward expansion plan that affected 21 property owners. Greenfield grew eastward by 60 acres in a voluntary annexation, which landowners and businesses along U.S. 40 agreed to.

Mike Fruth, Greenfield utility director, said Greenfield’s strategy on annexation for years has been to bring in properties as owners request annexation. A new business might request to come into city limits for public utilities, for example, and Greenfield officials might ask nearby landowners if they are interested in joining to square up boundaries.

Fruth said no annexations are on the horizon for Greenfield in 2014.

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