Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

April 8, 2013

Annexation fight will head to court

City says opponents have enough signatures.

By Scott Smith
Tribune staff writer

— City officials conceded Wednesday that opponents of the proposed annexation southeast of Kokomo have enough petition signatures to fight the matter in court.

The city wants to bring in about 4,000 acres of land between the city’s existing eastern boundary and the new U.S. 31 bypass.

The proposed annexation would take in the land around three interchanges on the new bypass, a move city officials say is necessary to protect the businesses along the current U.S. 31 route.

“We need to be proactive in annexing out to the new U.S. 31,” Mayor Greg Goodnight told the city council last year in discussing the annexation. “That’s a potential investment out there, and we don’t want anyone to make any type of development that could be detrimental to investments already on the current U.S. 31.”

Landowners in the proposed annexation area are fighting it, contending they already have adequate police and fire protection, and have adequate road maintenance.

They also say the annexation will have a significant financial impact on and it is not in the best interest of landowners.

According to the plans released by the city, property tax rates would nearly double for residents living in the annexation area, although property tax caps could mitigate some of the impact.

Mick Owens, a leader of the opposition, said in February the opposition has the signatures of 85 percent of the property owners and 80 percent of the assessed value.

“The higher the percentage the better our chances of winning,” he said.

Owens said the two biggest concerns of property owners were property taxes and being able to live in the county.

The opponents needed signatures from at least 65 percent of the landowners in the targeted annexation area to have their case heard.

City officials had hoped to have the annexation take effect as soon as March 1. The opponents’ successful petition drive sets the stage for either a protracted court battle or a possible settlement.

The two sides are expected to meet for a scheduling conference at 11 a.m. April 15 in Howard Circuit Court.

The annexation would add another 1,267 residents to the city, including those living in the unincorporated area of Oakford.

Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569 or at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com.

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