Evansville refutes land grab claim
If you go
A public hearing will be held on proposed changes to the city's smart growth plan at the plan commission meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 31 S. Madison St.
The Evansville City Council and Union Town Board also will meet together at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Evansville Fire Department, 425 Water St. The meeting agenda includes "discussion of cooperative agreements. No action will be taken."
EVANSVILLE Proposed changes to the city's Smart Growth plan are causing a stir among bordering residents in Union Township.
Township resident Robert Janes, treasurer of Residents of a United Union, is urging his neighbors to attend a plan commission public hearing Monday night on the proposal.
The city and Mayor Sandy Decker "want your tax dollars" and "quietly put together a plan that hopes to swallow over 2,000 acres of land that currently belongs" to the town, Janes stated in an ad in the local weekly newspaper, the Evansville Review.
In a column, Decker responded that the ad was "filled with misstatements" and that she was upset that the "misinformation in the ad is causing alarm, distress and uncertainty."
The issue centers on changes to the city's future land use plan map, which now includes a "long-range city growth boundary" that extends beyond the existing city limits. Previous versions of the map only had the 1.5-mile extraterritorial land division boundary.
The new map is part of a review that the city started last year to look at implementing the Smart Growth plan five years after it was approved, Decker told the Gazette. Since then, several amendments were made but not updated on the map, and major improvements were made to the wastewater treatment plant that increased capacity, she said.
A previous city planner also had recommended in 2008 to create a map to show areas outside of the city that could be serviced by water and sewer, she said.
"The map that's proposed is basically incorporating the possible sewer service," Decker said.
Janes responded to her comments to the Gazette by saying: "If that's the justification, then that's fine, but why not include the township in the discussion of where the line's going to be drawn?"
The city has no immediate plans to annex property, Decker said, and she disputed Janes' claim that the city is looking at township taxpayers for new property tax revenue. All of the 40 annexations in the last 20 or so years have been requested by the landowners, often because of septic system failures, Decker said.
"There may come a time in the future where enough of the sewer systems fail, depending on how old the subdivisions are, where it makes more sense (to annex)," she said, "but again, it's not that the city is actively looking at annexing."
When a new subdivision in the future city boundary area is ready to be developed, she said, it would go in as a city subdivision to use city services. That way, she said, it can be a higher-density subdivision that protects agricultural land.
Decker noted that the city denied a plan that Janes proposed in 2008 for a rural subdivision.
Janes agreed that the city likely has no immediate mass annexation plans, but he questions why the boundary lines include existing rural subdivisions. He also is concerned about how much control the city will have over township land in the boundary.
He and a few other people started the Residents of United Union in the last month, but it is quickly gathering support, he said. They have been collecting signatures from township residents on petitions that disagree with the city's plan and request an equal say in the process, he said.
Since his ad ran, Janes said, it sounds like the city is opening the door for dialogue.
"Really, that's all I was trying to do was expose the plans a little more—make it easier for some dialogue to take place," he said. "Hopefully, that's going to take place."
The city council is planning a special meeting with the Union Town Board on Thursday night to discuss ways they could possibly form cooperative agreements, Decker said.
The plan commission Monday likely will make a recommendation on the Smart Growth proposal to the city council, which also would have a public hearing, she said.