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Vivian Sade/The Journal Gazette

Developers oppose Huntertown annexation

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

Town 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 his 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 unsuccessful in trying to sell the property 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 whose taxes are already at the maximum allowed by statewide tax caps would not see an increase in property taxes. NACS – the largest taxing unit – would receive about $60,000 less in tax revenue next year if the annexation occurs.

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 local option income taxes, along with state funding for local roads and streets that is based on road mileage and population.

Last to speak Wednesday was Josh Neal of the Barrett & McNagny law firm, representing developers Mike and Jeff Thomas and Roger Delegrange. He said 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.

If annexation occurs, Huntertown has a year before it must provide fire and police protection and street maintenance and three years before it must make other improvements such as road construction, water and sewer services and streetlights.

Currently, Huntertown's sewage is handled by 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 proposed annexation falls short of complying with state law because the area includes parcels that are currently zoned residential or agricultural, and the population density is less than three people 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 town has not prepared an adequate comparison of services to be provided – but that was not brought up at the meeting, because Neal was informed that his two minutes were up.

In a report, Neal wrote that “It is troubling that the fiscal plan does not address the town's inability to provide sanitary sewer service to Whispering Rock and Timber Ridge … 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 uprades 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 cannot accept 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.”