Why does the city want to annex adjoining land, much of it currently used for agriculture, into the city limits?
That was one of the common questions posed Monday night by property owners voicing opposition to a proposed annexation plan being developed by the Washington Planning and Zoning Commission.
Tom Holdmeier, commission chairman, and other board members noted that the main reasons for proposing annexation at this time was to straighten out the city limit lines and to take in those areas where city water and sewer services are available, either through proximity to the current city limits or through service agreements between the city and adjoining water/sewer districts.
“The purpose is to provide a practical way to plan for future development in a rational way, in an orderly manner,” said Samantha Cerutti Wacker, board member.
A number of property owners addressed the board on the preliminary plan which is expected to be finalized and sent to the city council sometime next month.
“We would gladly voluntarily annex when we want to develop our property,” Adam Fischer said of property his family owns off Highway A and Country Club Road. “There’s not the market for another subdivision now,” he said. “We don’t want it (annexation).”
Roscoe Mayer, who owns a farm south of Bieker Road, asked why his land was included.
When he was told because it’s within an area where the city has a service agreement with the local water district, Mayer asked if the city would provide water and sewer service within three years.
Mark Piontek, city counselor, acknowledged that current law requires a municipality to provide the same level of services to annexed areas as those provided in the city. If not, a property owner could petition to have the land de-annexed, he said.
City Administrator Jim Briggs, however, said in areas that owners plan to maintain rural “in nature,” there is no intent to extend services immediately.
“When they develop, we can extend services,” Briggs noted. That will be outlined in the Annexation Plan of Intent, he explained.
“For the record, we’ll fight it to the end,” Mayer told the board.
“I’m with Roscoe. We’ll fight it to the end,” remarked Roger Koch, whose family owns a farm off Bieker Road. “We don’t know why you need us. There’s nothing you can offer us.”
Al Fischer, Adam Fischer’s father, said last month the board recommended removing his farm property from the south annexation area, but the city staff put it back in this month. “Who runs this? The board or Briggs,” Fischer remarked.
At the end of Monday’s meeting, the board recommended removing the Fischer farm property from the latest amended plan.
Tom Holdmeier, chairman, told Fischer that the board is involved in a “process” of developing an annexation plan and nothing is final yet.
Charles Eckelkamp said his family owns 132 acres off of Westlink Industrial Drive where they have cattle and hogs and raise corn, soybeans and wheat.
“I’m not for it (annexation). I’d like to be excluded,” Eckelkamp told the board.
Bernie Westhoelter, who has property on South Point Road, said he did a survey of nearby residents and 18 out of 26 were against annexation.
“I’m against it,” Westhoelter remarked. He said he sees no benefit to being annexed by the city. “It will be a long time before we get anything out of the tax base we’ll be in.”
Judy Watermann Hjoitness, whose family owns Watermann Farms off Highway 100, objected to the city’s plan to annex a 4-acre wedge of the farm property on the north side of Route 100, adjacent to the Heidmann Industrial Park. “Why should we want to be part of this. We’ve heard nothing yet. We request you pull us out of the plan.”
Darren Lamb, community and economic development director, said a goal of the city is to annex the Highway 100 right of way to give city police jurisdiction along that stretch.
There was a lengthy back and forth discussion about the value of having the highway right of way in the police department’s jurisdiction.
Samantha Cerutti Wacker asked Hjoitness what her specific fear was of the city annexing that wedge.
The property owner replied increased taxes, and the potential for future annexation. “The next time you can try to take the whole farm,” she remarked.
Wacker explained that the property would be more valuable if it’s in the city if the family would decide to develop or sell it.
“The property taxes will run us off the farm,” Hjoitness replied.
Opposition also was expressed by Jack Brinker who owns property off Westlink Industrial Drive. Brinker said when his father sold property for the Edison Brothers facility (now Rawlings), then-Mayor Dick Hirschl promised that the farm would not be annexed unless he requested it.
“I’d like to stay out of the city limits,” Brinker said.