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Vivian Sade/The Journal Gazette
Northwest Allen County Schools Business Manager Bill Mallers and Superintendent Chris Himsel addresed the Huntertown Council Wednesday about the town’s proposal to annex 530 acres between Lima and Coldwater roads, saying they had "concerns" about a loss of revenue that would impact the school district due to circuit breaker caps.

Huntertown hears annexation concerns

About 30 people attended, but only five spoke out Wednesday at a public hearing for Huntertown’s proposal to annex 530 acres, much of it in the Twin Eagles subdivision.

Council members did not speak or answer questions and members of the public were limited to two minutes of speech.

One resident of Huntertown who does not live in the annexation area – bordered by Gump, Dunton, Cedar Canyon and Coldwater roads – said he was in favor of the annexation as did Jim Russell, who is retired and spends much of the time in Florida.

Russell owns 25 acres at the south end of Gump Road, which is in the annexation area, and said he has been trying to sell the property to no avail, because sanitary sewer services are not available.

Northwest Allen County Schools Business Manager Bill Mallers and Superintendent Chris Himsel said they had concerns about the loss of revenue the annexation would cause to the district.

Property owners who have already reached the circuit breaker caps would not see an increase in property taxes, and the circuit breaker tax caps for real property would shift among the overlapping taxing units, with NACS – the largest taxing unit – receiving about $60,000 less in tax revenues next year if the annexation occurs.

Josh Neal of the Barrett & McNagny law firm spoke last on behalf of developers, Mike and Jeff Thomas and Roger Delegrange, saying the developers had already signed an agreement with Fort Wayne City Utilities for water and sewer services for two planned subdivisions south of Gump Road.

Thomas’ project, Whispering Rock, would include 197 homes in the $500,000 to $600,000 range, and Delegrange’s project, Timber Ridge, would include 119 homes in the $300,000 to $400,000 range, he said.

“They want to break ground later this year and Huntertown cannot provide sanitary sewer,” Neal said.

Should annexation occur, Huntertown has a year to provide services such as fire and police protection and street maintenance and three years to provide other improvements such as road construction, water and sewer services and street lights.

Currently, Huntertown’s sewage is pumped to City Utilities. Huntertown recently applied for a second time – the first permit was denied two years ago – to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, asking for a permit to construct a new wastewater treatment plant.

The annextion falls short of complying with the state’s annexation laws since the annexation area is comprised of parcels currently zoned residential or agricultural and the population density is less than the required three persons per acre, Neal said. The object of the law is to permit annexation of adjacent urban property, he said.

The annexation also does not meet the requirement of “being needed,” Neal said.

Another note of contention with the developers was that the fiscal plan did not contain an adequate comparison of services to be provided but that was not brought up at the meeting because Neal was cut off mid-sentence by Council President Pat Freck, who informed him that his two minutes were up.

“It is troubling that the fiscal plan does not address the town’s inability to provide santitary sewer service to Whispering Rock and Timber Ridge,” Neal said in his report. “What is even more troubling is that the town’s plan boldly and incorrectly asserts that developed and undeveloped properties within the area have access to water and sewer services and that no ugrades are needed to serve the area.”

Councilman Gary Grant said the town owns a pipe in the area of Gump Road, but since it has reached flow capacity, Huntertown is barred from accepting any more sewer customers.

“The council will look over and read Neal’s report very closely,” he said, “and then we’ll make a decision in 30 days,” Grant said.

The annexation would add about 1,500 people to Huntertown’s population – currently 4,810 – and the town would get about $192,000 in additional revenue, mostly from county economic development and option income taxes, along with state funding for local roads and streets, which is based on road mileage and population.

vsade@jg.net

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