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Few property annexations, especially of the size Tell City has tackled over the past year, are accomplished easily or without considerable debate. That has certainly been the case this spring as the Tell City Common Council debated, sought public input and adopted an ordinance adding 1,776 acres into the community.
As we reported in Thursday’s issue, a group of landowners opposed to their properties being annexed is in the first stages of filing a remonstrance.
We don’t fault property owners in the annexation area from raising issues or from pursuing their legal rights to challenging the city’s plans. Certainly, the city’s annexation efforts have not been without flaws.
We want to be clear that we are neither in favor of nor opposed to annexation. We believe we have fairly covered the issue as it progressed and we’ll continue to do so.
Our issues include the question of why Waupaca Foundry and other areas of the industrial park it is located in were not included in the annexation area. No one – homeowner, farmer or industry – wants to pay more in taxes but adding the plant into the city’s assessed valuation would have generated a significant amount of revenue and given extra funding to a fiscal plan. Several people have argued revenues coming in from new areas won’t cover the city’s cost of serving them with utilities and general services such as trash pickup and street lights.
We don’t recall any public statement about why Waupaca was not included.
We also believe the city should have been more forthcoming early in the process about why the Barkhamsted subdivision was not included in the annexation area. Its exclusion almost literally jumps off the annexation map. We don’t have proof to doubt the city’s reason for excluding the area, namely the need to provide sufficient water for drinking and fire protection that only a new water tower would provide. But the reason should have been put forth in detail.
We understand Tell City’s need to grow and the need to annex. Every community should have an opportunity to expand its boundaries to provide sites for commercial, residential and even industrial development.
Tell City lacks room for substantial new development and while much of the land it is annexing is too hilly for development, there are sites in the annexation areas for homes and commercial projects. Tell City, naturally, wants to benefit from that development. However, leaders have struggled to show meaningful benefits to those in the annexed areas.
For the same reasons, the town of Troy is working to annex land to its north that includes existing industry as well as land that could be developed in the future.
Several people have commented that Tell City leaders should concentrate on developing the city in its current boundaries. We agree that is an important goal, but to Tell City’s credit, leaders have done that. In recent years, Tell City has been awarded millions of dollars for housing. New homes have been built with grant funds and resold and that money reinvested into the Depot. A new housing complex is coming to Seventh Street.
Tell City has served as the fiscal agent for the River Road Project, eliminated combined-sewer overflows and greatly expanded the capacity of the sewer plant. That opens the doors for development.
Over the years, the city has expanded its services into these areas without requiring those landowners to agree to annexation. Perhaps there is a lesson there for the future. When it already offers many of the benefits of city utilities, the advantages of annexation are less than compelling.
We hope the debate over annexation, as it was during a public hearing, continues to be civil. Regardless of the outcome over an remonstrance or future court case, residents of property already in the city and those who may become citizens later this year, will continue to be neighbors.
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