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Annexation encounters opposition

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County residents living near a proposed Interstate 65 interchange project fear paying city taxes and fees and losing their rural lifestyle to Greenwood’s vision of high-end development for the area.

The city is taking steps to annex land around the interchange that the state plans to build at Worthsville Road. Greenwood wants 1,800 acres surrounding the interchange, much of which is farmland, and to be able to oversee how the area gets developed.

The city has not approved the annexation but by state law can make the land part of the city.

Residents at a meeting Wednesday asked city officials how they could stop the annexation.

The city’s plan commission and city council still must approve the annexation for it to go through, so residents do have time to protest to those city boards, officials said.

“If you’re against it, speak,” senior planner Bill Peeples said.

About 50 residents attended the meeting, and more than a dozen asked questions and raised concerns. Residents said they did not see any benefit to becoming part of the city.

They expressed fear the city’s promises of allowing them to keep their area a farming community will fall under pressure to build homes and businesses near the interchange and are concerned about widened roads and added traffic due to the new interchange, slated to start construction next spring.

The proposed annexation doesn’t come with guarantees that residents will be better off, Marta Corbin said. She has lived on a 10-acre property on County Road 200E for 18 years and would neighbor the interchange.

“We’re pretty concerned that the long-term plan for this is to gobble up so much prime farmland,” she said. “This is just going to become another Indianapolis.”

Greenwood cannot force residents to sell their land to developers, city planning director Ed Ferguson said. Greenwood expects most of the properties to stay as they are for decades, but if development happens, the city wants to ensure it includes high-end homes and businesses, not gas stations and motels, he said. Annexation would allow the city to oversee zoning and other rules that control the quality of development, he said.

Resident Darlene Messer bought her 5-acre property on Graham Road so she could live in the country, she said. Her biggest worry about the annexation is the possibility of increased property taxes, she said.

Residents who haven’t already met the state’s 1 percent property tax cap could have their taxes increase in the future due to city tax rates that could be added after their property is annexed, officials have said.

All city residents also pay a $5 per month stormwater utility fee. The fee is higher for larger properties and is $5 per 2,800 square feet of hard surface area, including paved driveways, barns and homes. Residents also raised concerns about that fee and how costly it could be for farms with multiple buildings.

Bill Calvert, who lives on Allen Road, is retired and lives on a fixed income. He said the annexation would increase his expenses.

He is worried the city eventually will require him to connect to the city sewer system, instead of using a septic system, and charge him for using city utilities in addition to his property taxes increasing, he said.

The city will not force residents to use the city sewer system after the annexation, though it could force them if city sewer lines extend to within 100 feet of a property, Ferguson said. The city hasn’t forced residents to hook on to the system in the past and likely would only if a septic system weren’t working properly, he said.

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