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November 14, 2012

City to annex east side land

WASHINGTON —

The Washington City Council, at its Monday meeting, voted six to one in favor of annexing 1,234 acres east of the city to support and control orderly, long-term growth there and capture the tax base from development along the I-69 corridor.

Councilman Blake Chambers cast the lone “no” vote. Chambers declined comment on his vote after the meeting, saying, “I have my reasons, obviously. Since there may be a remonstrance, it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment at this time.”

An annexation ordinance was introduced and fiscal plan approved July 23, effected property owners notified, and a public hearing held Oct. 8.

Many of those property owners have been opposed to the annexation and made their thoughts known at the public hearing.

Some concerns voiced by the impacted residents included loss of privacy, encroachment on their properties and higher taxes. According to one of the property owners, it’s unknown if they’ll remonstrate. He also declined comment.

Mayor Joe Wellman contends the benefits outweigh any costs or inconveniences to the annexed residents.

Some of those benefits are lower electricity rates and homeowners insurance, full-time police and fire protection, garbage collection, road maintenance, improved sewer and water lines, as well as paved streets and streetlights if the residents so choose.

As for the increased tax rate, Wellman explained that growth in the area will increase the city’s tax base, which will benefit property owners. In addition, it was explained at the public hearing that tax caps limit how much taxes can increase.

Wellman said the annexation could become effective in mid- to late February. However, before any steps can be taken to move forward with it, there is a 90-day remonstrance period during which the property owners may band together and file a lawsuit to stop the annexation.

Prior to the vote, an amendment to the annexation ordinance was approved that removed farm- and woodlands in the southeast corner of the original proposed area. Wellman explained the ground is not accessible by road and could not be developed. The remaining 1,234 acres includes all commercially zoned properties and the U.S. 50 and I-69 corridors.

Also before the roll-call vote was taken, Councilman Joe Fleck questioned whether utility rates would be raised to pay for infrastructure upgrades in the annexed area. David Dahl of Midwestern Engineers said nothing major is needed currently, and development will pay for any long-term requirements.

“At this point, as David said, the growth will pay for it,” Wellman emphasized.

“We need the water anyway (for fire protection for existing businesses). We have to add that whether we annex or not. We’re 90 percent sure annexation won’t raise (utility) rates.”

Councilman Eric Bassler said he’s been vocal about the city being unprepared for I-69. He said he believed not approving the annexation would only add to that.

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