The Bloomington City Council made significant revisions to the proposed annexation areas, including some divisions and removals, at a special session Wednesday night.
In a meeting that lasted until 1 a.m. Thursday, the council approved the fiscal plans for eight of the nine proposed areas, which puts them another step closer to annexation. The ordinances that would approve annexation require an area have a fiscal influence accepted by the city council. These fiscal plans are considered to be working documents and are expected to change throughout the legislative process.
The annexation of 10,000 acres in and around the city of Bloomington was officially proposed as legislation for the city council to deliberate.
Mayor John Hamilton proposed the addition of seven areas in and around the city of Bloomington last month, which would add 10,000 acres, more than 7,000 parcels and 15,000 people. These nine areas, which are currently unincorporated, would become official parts of the city. City services do not currently extend to these areas, though Bloomington is the closest municipality to the people in the proposed annexation areas. If approved, annexation would take effect Jan. 1, 2020.
The original seven areas proposed for annexation changed to nine Wednesday. Area one, the largest area, which would extend from the current western boundaries of the city to as far out as South Kirby Road, was split into three separate parts.
Philippa Gutherie, corporation counsel for the city, explained the split at the session as a means of technicality. In previous annexations the city acquired parts of Leonard Springs Road, but not the land around it.
Gutherie said this was during a time when it was common for states to do “spider annexation,” when a city government annexes a road but not the land on one or both sides of the road. This form of annexation is no longer allowed under state statute.
Each of the areas is a separate piece of legislation. This is so the council can approve one area and not another. Now that area one is split into three separate sections, parts of the former area could be approved while other sections could not.
Area six, the area located on the northeast side of the current boundaries, was officially taken out of the annexation process. The council rejected the area’s fiscal plan 2-7.
Should an area be approved for annexation, residents of an area that do not want to be annexed may petition and override the decision. This process is called remonstrance. The petition must be signed by at least 65 percent of the area’s tax-paying property owners.
Area six residents filed a petition this week with more than 90 percent of property owners signing to not be annexed into the city. The council took the filing and the objection into consideration to strike the fiscal plan.
Monroe County Commissione Julie Thomas said during public comment that there is no more room for development and that the land was not ideal to develop anyway should the city want to build there. Concerns were also expressed about the environmental protections in the area, since streams located there are connected to Griffy Lake.
City controller Jeff Underwood said the area should have been considered because the residents of area six “work, live and play inside the corporate limits.”
The next step in the annexation process is allowing time for public hearings. The city’s public hearings for these official proposals will take place May 31 at Bloomington High School South. The proposed timeline for this process is to have the final annexation vote June 30.
Four members of the Monroe County Council spoke during the public comment session, expressing to the city council its concerns about the influence of annexation on the county budget, echoing the concerns of annexation-area residents and asking the city council to slow down the annexation process.
“I ask that you consider slowing down and scaling back,” County Council member Shelli Yoder said.
While the council was considering the fiscal plan for area 1A, council member Chris Sturbaum proposed an amendment stating that the entire annexation process be delayed until October to give council members time to get more information before voting. He wanted to add this amendment to every fiscal plan resolution except those regarding areas three, four and five, which are located within city limits.
“Tomorrow we are starting the 60-day clock, so we have to get there in 60 days,” Sturbaum said. “That is fast, and the county does not have their research back. They’ll get it back in a week, they’ll digest it, and I haven’t even had enough time . . . I feel like I don’t have enough information.”
The council struck down the amendment 5-4 after about 45 minutes of deliberation about whether it would learn any more given the extra time. Council members that voted “yes” with Sturbaum were Andy Ruff, Dorothy Grander and Isabel Piedmont-Smith.
Though area-seven residents have publicly stated they are collecting signatures for a remonstrance petition as well and are said to have 80 percent of its property owners signing, the city council still approved the fiscal plan, allowing it to go forward. Those who approved it did so on the grounds that the area had not filed its petition yet, unlike area six.
Area seven does not seem to meet the state’s definition of an urbanized area, which was the city’s guideline for choosing areas to annex.
Indiana statute defines an urbanized area as one that either has 60 percent of the parcels that are an acre or less, three residents per acre or is zoned for commercial business or a specific economic development project. Area seven meets none of these.
A running theme for council members last night was the idea that all the people who are living close to the city use city resources and should be paying for the services.
Ultimately, all council members seemed to agree that the full process matters for areas that they approved to go forward.
The city also passed a proposal to extend Monroe County’s authority over building codes for another year. Monroe County has been in charge of these codes since 1996. Bloomington has since renewed the length of time Monroe County has this building-code authority, though this extension is only for one year, as opposed to multiple years as it has been in the past.
“Given the varying developments of our community decided to have a shorter time for,” city attorney Michael Rouker said.