Future of town’s borders unclear

A vote that would have killed a plan to annex land into the town of Trafalgar failed, and a final decision is expected next week.

Several residents have been outspoken in opposing a proposal to annex 1,300 acres into Trafalgar, saying they don’t want to become a part of the town and they don’t want or can’t afford to pay the higher taxes. They have attended multiple meetings and raised their concerns and questions.

This week, more than 60 people attended a meeting to ask questions and let officials know they don’t want the annexation because they see no benefit and they do not want to be included in the town.

Two town council members agreed.

Council member Scott Ray asked for a vote to abolish the annexation proposal. Three council members voted to kill the plan, but then one of the council members took back her “yes” vote. Council member Betty Davis, who wears a hearing aid, said she could not hear what the vote was for. So when she voted yes, she did not know what she was voting on. Her initial yes vote was unintended, town attorney Bill Barrett said.

In a second vote, Davis voted no, along with town council president Jeff Eisenmenger and council member David Moore.

Residents had clapped and cheered for the first vote, assuming the annexation proposal would be killed. But now, the council is set to vote again next week.

If the annexation is approved, the town limits would expand mostly north along State Road 135 by about 1,000 acres. In addition, more than 300 acres would be annexed east and west of the town.

Council members say the annexation is needed to control economic growth and development, but those who would be annexed into the town do not want to become Trafalgar residents. Previous town council members had set the annexation in motion as part of future plans for the town, and the issue has been discussed for at least five years, Eisenmenger said.

“You are the one that’s sitting up there telling us what is going to be best in our livelihood, when you have no say-so about it,” Johnson County resident Tom Law said.

About 30 affected residents have hired lawyers and plan to file a remonstrance if the annexation is approved by the town council. They say they don’t want to become a part of the town because they chose to live in the county but outside town or city limits.

Attorney Ryan Dillon, who represents more than 25 of the residents, wanted to see an updated fiscal plan from the town council. Since the fiscal plan was sent to residents about six months ago, no updated version has been presented, he said.

One of the major changes that needs to be reflected in the fiscal plan is the phasing in of town property taxes for some property owners, as well as allowing all agricultural land to be exempt from paying town property taxes, Dillon said.

Residents also questioned a decision by the town redevelopment commission to spend tax dollars collected from tax-increment financing, or TIF, district funds on the annexation. The town set no limit for how much could be spent or what it would be spent on, and the town has a total of $208,000 in TIF funds. The town will set a maximum spending limit at a later date, Barrett said.

Jason Ramey, who is running for a seat on the town council this year, is concerned about how the town will cover the cost of the annexation.

“What suffers and lacks when we do in fact have to pay the legal fees? What do I now lose as a citizen, when we’re paying legal fees?” Ramey asked.

If the annexation is approved, residents have 90 days to file a remonstrance. Under current law, residents would need at least 65 percent of property owners or landowners of at least 75 percent of the total value of properties to sign the remonstrance.

But under a new law going into effect July 1, residents will not need as many people to sign a petition as is currently required — at least 51 percent of property owners or landowners or 60 percent of the total value of properties. The town also could be required to pay the challengers’ legal fees if the remonstrance is successful.

If you go

What: The Trafalgar Town Council will meet to vote on adding about 1,300 acres into the town.

When: 7 p.m. June 18

Where: Trafalgar Banquet Center, 109½ S. Pleasant St., Trafalgar