Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

November 13, 2012

Annexation foes begin petition drive

More than 500 parcel owners must sign to challenge

By Megan Graham
Tribune staff writer

— Residents whose property may be annexed to the city in its Southeast Annexation plan met Monday to discuss its possible implications and ways to challenge it.

The meeting, at Creative Financial Center and attended by more than 200, was in response to the city’s plan to annex roughly 6 square miles to the east and southeast of the current city boundary – an area including three interchanges on the new U.S. 31 bypass.

Mick Owens, founder of Creative Financial, has set up Southeast Annexation Opponents LLC to organize the group. He presented the implications of the annexation, which he said would include the city providing trash pickup, fire and police services to the annexed residences. He also said the annexation would come with restrictions associated with the city but not in the county. The city has said it will grandfather in the county rules.

“I believe that we know what’s best for our backyard,” Owen said.

Scott Maple, Taylor Community Schools board member, demonstrated how property taxes would be affected if the annexation occurred. He said residents in that area should expect to see substantial property tax increases, especially for rental properties and farmland – as well as a decrease in tax dollars going to Taylor schools.

John Magers, superintendent of Taylor schools, said challenging the annexation may be a matter of survival for the school district.

“It would be a devastating event for us,” he said.

Phil Sever and Tonny Storey, eminent domain attorneys of Sever Storey, will be fighting the case and helping residents follow protocol to challenge the annexation. Sever said 65 percent of the land parcels – with many landowners holding multiple parcels – or 75 percent of the assessed valuation must be included in a remonstration. If there are 800 parcels like the group believes, residents need about 520 parcels to sign petitions in order to fight the annexation.

“If you have three parcels, that’s three votes,” Sever said. “That’s three counts toward our 520 number.”

Sever said the residents have 90 days after the proposed annexation is published to collect the petitions.

“From today, you have about 100 days to get the 520 signatures if you want to stop the annexation,” he said. “Stay on board with your organizers and keep pushing forward.”

Marcia Blazer, of Blazer Farms, said she strongly opposes the annexation and the extra costs associated with it.

“I live on a farm,” she said. “We’re farmers, not city people. This would put a lot of hardship on us.”

Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said he plans to proceed in a way that best serves citizens and businesses.

“Myself and the city council have a responsibility to protect the businesses and citizens of Kokomo,” he said. “I never wanted the new bypass, but I’m stuck with it. I never wanted the property tax caps, but I’m stuck with those. I spoke out against both, but the voters across the county and the voters across the state supported property tax caps. My responsibility is to protect Kokomo’s businesses and Kokomo’s citizens. I need to make decisions based on their best interests, and that’s what I intend to do.”

Owens said if residents signed a preliminary petition, they need to sign an official document with their parcels listed, which are available from him. Completed petitions can be returned to Creative Financial Center.

Megan Graham is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter. She can be reached by phone at 765-454-8570 or by email at megan.graham@kokomotribune.com.