ELKHART — Property owners, including Jonnai Mauch, who lives inside one of the first four areas targeted by the city of Elkhart for annexation, got a look at some of the possible benefits and drawbacks to “life in the city” Tuesday night, Jan. 21.
Mauch, who lives in Timberstone subdivision off C.R. 15, is in area No. 2 and was among many residents and business owners invited by the city to stop by and ask questions during a four-hour open house in council chambers Tuesday.
While city officials were on hand to answer various questions, probably the single most popular concern was the tax impact.
Mauch said she was told she would see very little, if any, hike in taxes.
“I was pleasantly surprised, based on the lack of increase in costs and the fact that my property taxes won't increase,” she said. “But I don't think that will be the case for everybody.”
“I'm cautiously optimistic,” she said.
Tuesday's informational meeting represents one of the first steps toward annexation of the first four of 16 proposed areas. A formal public hearing before city council on the first four areas is scheduled for March 3.
Those areas include property near the airport, an area adjacent to C.R. 6 and C.R. 15, an area near C.R. 17 and Middlebury Street, and an area that includes Borg Road and Pierina Drive.
The meeting featured a series of tables with representatives from city departments, including fire, police, planning, public works, parks, street, and building and grounds.
One table included a handful of city workers who stood ready with computers to provide estimates on what individual property taxes would be if annexation happens. The estimates were based on existing values and visitors were warned actual estimates may change.
Two other homeowners — neighbors Paul Thrash and Lori Miltroka — who arrived during the first hour were also told they would see little increase in taxes and expressed a sense of relief in that regard.
“I was pleased, but I'm already paying a lot,” said Thrash, whose family of four lives off C.R. 15 in area No. 2.
But that doesn't mean either are eager to be embraced by the city.
Miltroka walked out of the meeting disappointed to learn about the city's burn permit. She said she was told a permit for a single use will cost $25 and one for the entire year is $100.
And if neighbors complain, she said, the fire has to be extinguished.
She and Thrash expressed disappointment with that policy.
Miltroka said she chose to move into the area many years ago for the peace and quiet that normally comes with rural life.
In addition to possible annexation, they both saw a nearby industrial company, MOR/ryde International, expand last year.
“It's changes I was never expecting I'd have to deal with,” Miltroka said.
Thrash said his biggest concern is the financial impact on Osolo Township Fire Department, which stands to lose some tax revenues if annexation occurs.
“That worries me more than anything.” Thrash said, because the fire department is already struggling.
Both suggested annexation appears to be a foregone conclusion.
One interesting aspect on display at the meeting involved postal addresses. Almost all property owners who are annexed will see their addresses change.
Elkhart County uses five digits in its addresses, while the city uses four or less. Several maps at the planning department table showed existing and proposed address changes for each property.
“It's a way of differentiating between the county and city,” said city planner Eric Trotter. “It's pretty standard that when you come into the city, your address will change.
A city employee estimated 75 residential properties exist inside the four annexation areas.
Here's a map of where the proposed annexations would be. The reddish shaded areas show the first round of proposed annexations: