City releases more annexation plans involving 16 areas

The city of Elkhart has unveiled three more rounds of future annexation requests. If approved, nearly 500 commercial and industrial customers would become part of the city.

Posted on Oct. 19, 2013 at 1:00 a.m.

ELKHART — The city of Elkhart has released its entire initial annexation plan that coincides with efforts to alter the controversial compact sewer policy for customers outside of the city.

After announcing 10 days ago the first round of properties targeted for annexation, the city unveiled plans late Thursday afternoon for three more rounds containing 12 areas of property.

Mayor Dick Moore said he hopes council can begin reviewing and approving the 16 areas grouped in four rounds of requests in the coming months.

Moore said he was pleasantly surprised at how quickly the plan came together. The engineering department is working with a consultant in preparing the annexation strategy, he said.

The first round of requests, involving four areas, will be submitted to city council next month, Moore said.

He was unsure when the next three rounds would be sent to council, but sounded optimistic.

“I would like to see all of them go to the council in 2014. I don’t see any problems at the council level, as some of the members have been critical of administrations in the past and present for not adopting an aggressive annexation plan,” Moore said.

Read more: Maps of the 16 areas sought for annexation

The current plan, he said, underscores the administration’s commitment to such an aggressive effort.

More than a dozen years ago, the city began extending sewer service to companies outside of the city with intentions of annexing the properties soon afterward. With additional revenues coming into the city through compact fees, though, that desire to annex was shelved over the course of several mayoral administrations.

Moore and council members are in agreement for the need to annex commercial customers outside of the city.

Information about the next three rounds, involving 12 areas, suggests the city is set to grow in almost all directions.

If the plan is approved, Moore said the city would look at more annexations plans.

All of the properties are along the perimeter of the city.

The plan involves mostly commercial and industrial properties.

Numerous clusters of properties sought for annexation are found along parts of C.R. 6, C.R. 17 and Nappanee Street on the south side of the city.

If the entire list of properties were to be annexed, the city would grow significantly in the amount of assessed property value that can be taxed.

Based on figures provided by the city, the entire plan covering four rounds would boost the amount of assessed value by $335,899,100.

Moore said he wasn’t prepared to estimate how much tax revenue could result from all of the proposed areas. However, under the first round, the city estimates the additional revenues could be as much as $1.5 million from the $80 million in increased assessed property value.

The annexation push goes hand in hand with an effort by the city to revamp how it charges commercial customers outside of the city for sewer service.

The first four rounds seek to annex 253 commercial properties and would add nearly an equal number of commercial customers not using city sewer service.

The city began considering changes in January after council approved plans two months earlier attempting to shift about 75 companies outside of the city from a sewer service agreement to the compact fee policy that 63 other companies had been on for years.

Some companies — and Republicans on the city council — began complaining that the compact fee, based on assessed property values, is burdensome and unfair.

Councilman Brian Dickerson had said he wanted the annexation plan to be part of the sewer ordinance to ensure annexation indeed happens.

Told of the newly released plans, Dickerson applauded Moore’s efforts, but said he still thinks annexation should be part of the future sewer ordinance.

On the other hand, Dickerson expressed frustration that Moore is slow to share information with council members.

Specifically, Dickerson is upset that a public records request he made seeking some details on annexation was turned down by the city earlier this month. Dickerson was informed that some of the information is limited by attorney-client privilege.

Days later, though, the city unveiled the first round of details.

“He’s been unwilling to provide information to the governing body and that’s a concern,” Dickerson said.

Dickerson and another council member, David Henke, said they had not seen details of the annexation plan released Thursday.

Moore emailed council members Friday evening with the information and explained it was an oversight.

Meanwhile, city council has received a proposal from Moore that would phase out compact fees in favor of a surcharge by 2018. While the change satisfies a demand sought by Republicans, some on the council have suggested the transition is not fast enough.

City council is scheduled to meet Monday night, Oct. 21.

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