Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

October 13, 2012

City council expected to vote on annexation Monday

By Scott Smith
Tribune staff writer

— In the upscale Cotswold Hills subdivision, there’s a theory, prevalent in that section of Howard County, that the city of Kokomo is looking at dollar signs.

Why else, they say, would the city be paying to run sewers out past the city limits — city limits which were themselves just expanded this year?

For city officials, however, the issue comes down to a petition, signed by several Cotswold property owners, asking for sewers.

Monday, both sides will have a chance to tell their sides of the story to the Kokomo Common Council, which is set to annex Cotswold Hills and about six square miles to the southeast of Kokomo.

The city council has moved both annexations to Monday’s final passage vote — 7 p.m. at City Hall, 100 S. Union St. — and some of the Cotswold neighbors turned out to protest.

At issue is the sewer petition, which about a dozen Cotswold property owners signed. It states the owners will each pay to hook onto the main sewer once it’s in place.

The city, in return, is willing to pay to run the main trunk sewer out to the 50-acre subdivision, at an estimated cost of $1 million.

The half-finished subdivision, which currently has 28 homes, sits just to the south of the newly-annexed Timber Valley subdivision, near the intersection of Ind. 26 and 200 West.

Most of the empty lots are owned by developer Jack Rayl, who started the Cotswold subdivision in 1993, and who also controls the subdivision’s homeowner’s association.

Residents choosing to tap into sewers would pay “up to” a $6,000 hook-in fee, and city sewer rates. Residents who don’t want to tap in won’t have to, unless in the future they are required to hook in (due to a failing septic) by the Howard County Health Department.

The annexation would generate around $40,000 in net revenue for the city in 2014, the first year Cotswold residents would pay city taxes, according to the city’s annexation petition.

The tax rate for the subdivision would go from $1.87 per $100 of assessed valuation to $3.33 with the change, according to the city’s fiscal plan.

In August, some Cotswold residents alleged the subdivision’s developer, John Rayl, is driving the process.

Cotswold resident Wayne Janner said Rayl even brought out the city engineer, Carey Stranahan, to help convince neighbors their septic systems would fail, and that they would eventually need sewers to tap into.

“I believe people attending that meeting were satisfied they didn’t want any part of it,” Janner told the council.

Even so, Council President Mike Kennedy said this week he remains supportive of the annexation, saying his main concern was what was best for the city taxpayers.

“I think [the administration] is doing it to help out some individuals with septic problems and long-term, this would have happened anyway,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said he thought the administration might also be looking at both existing development near Cotswold and future development. The upscale Chippendale subdivision is close to Cotswold Hills.

The city’s policy is to require annexation as a condition of granting a sewer petition, and Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said that’s the reason the city wants to annex Cotswold Hills.

He noted that on the other side of Kokomo, the city is running a sewer interceptor out to the Darrough Chapel subdivision, despite the fact Darrough Chapel isn’t part of the city.

“That’s a neighborhood that’s not in the city, and doesn’t pay city taxes, yet we thought it was important to help them,” Goodnight said.

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