ELKHART — Does annexation equate to the loss of freedoms?
Lisa Smith and her husband, Timothy, think so.
From their back door, on Elm Drive, they can see a neighbor’s horse, and Lisa’s daughter has talked about getting one some day.
On top of that, the family has talked about adding some chickens and goats in the near future.
But they live east of Elkhart in a neighborhood targeted by Mayor Dick Moore’s administration for annexation. If approved, it could end talk of adding goats and chickens.
Votes on Monday involve five areas
On Monday, July 21, Elkhart City Council is expected to vote on whether to annex five areas. Those include:
Area 12, Beck Drive, C.R. 17
Area 14, S.R. 19, C.R. 4
Area 15, C.R. 6 and C.R. 7
Area 9, Toledo Road C.R. 13
Area 10, Toledo Road C.R. 17 (Phase 4A)
While the existing uses of properties, such as farms, would be protected if annexation happens, residents thinking about making such changes down the road would lose that opportunity.
“If this passes, we’re not going to be able to do that,” Smith said. “That’s really going to affect us.”
On Monday, July 21, the council will vote on five areas being considered for annexation, including a tract of property known as area 10 that includes Smith’s neighborhood.
Some folks contend the simple pleasures of living in an unincorporated area are at stake in the annexation battle.
Among those: The ability to have a campfire or bonfire. Or the right to use firearms, whether it be for target practice or the intended elimination of a pestering ground hog.
Campfires are allowed in the city, but a permit is required and if a neighbor complains, the fire has to be extinguished.
The shooting of firearms is also more regulated.
Smith said she believes the level of opposition among residents is close to 100 percent.
Wally Rose is among those folks.
“We certainly don’t want what Moore is trying to do,” said Rose, who, along with his wife, downsized a year ago from their 18-acre home in Middlebury and specifically looked for a home outside of the city.
They found one at the end of a cul-de-sac on Arbor Kove Drive, east of where the Smiths live.
Rose isn’t interested in campfires or shooting guns, but is disgusted by what he sees as an infringement of rights from government in general.
The idea of a city mandating annexation despite strong opposition is maddening to Rose.
“We don’t want anything to do with the city,”
His message to mayor Dick Moore and council is simple: “You can’t offer us a damn thing that we don’t already have.”
Moore has heard arguments over the potential loss of freedoms, but has a different outlook.
Moore said he believes the term “freedom” is misused in the debate.
Ordinances enacted by the city are aimed at improving the quality of life for everyone, Moore said.
Moore argues that one person’s freedom should not come at the expense of neighbor’s happiness, and he points to the fact that some people who live in unincorporated areas don’t care for the lack of regulations involving outdoor fires.
While the council will face decisions on five areas, the most vocal in terms of opposition may well come from area 10. That was the case when the council conducted a public hearing last month on the five areas.
Area 10 includes properties north and east of the C.R. 15 and Toledo Road intersection as well as some land south of Toledo Road further to the east.
Unlike most of the 16 areas targeted by the city, area 10 is among the smaller and has just a handful of businesses along with a large apartment complex.
So far this year, the council has approved plans to annex eight areas that make up phases one and two.
The remonstration period for phase one ended last week and city officials are unaware of any organized opposition, meaning those four areas will become part of the city Jan. 1, 2015.
The remonstrance period for phase two ends in September, but some residents are working toward a court case if they can gather enough signatures.
Monday’s vote will be the last major annexation decision the council will face until next year when it considers several areas that make up a fourth phase.
Amid the anger, there is talk among residents of area 10 about hiring an attorney and pooling their money together. But right now, they’re focused on Monday’s meeting.
Opponents gathered Thursday night and organized a phone campaign to put pressure on all nine council members, Rose said.
He predicts a large crowd for Monday’s votes.