Matt Greller, Aim Chief Executive Officer

Managing growth and development in a way that benefits all Hoosiers should be important to all our elected officials. In the face of population shifts, housing demands, and the need for expanded utility services, it’s time for Indiana to recognize that municipal annexation will sometimes be necessary to fuel our state’s economic engines — our cities and towns.

Legislative reforms in 2015 and several subsequent changes significantly altered the annexation landscape. Those in favor of these changes would be hard-pressed not to agree that their concerns of the past have been addressed and their desired effects have been achieved.

Fewer municipally initiated annexations, fewer and less impactful annexation waivers, fiscal guarantees to the county, as well as more public outreach and financial planning are just some of the sought after and achieved outcomes.

Major economic development deals often hinge on access to municipally owned utilities, as do new housing and multi-use developments. Annexation enables cities and towns to extend these vital services to growing areas, fostering investment, job creation, and community vitality. Moreover, annexation is critical for maintaining public safety and infrastructure standards in these growing areas, ensuring that citizens have access to the resources and amenities they need to thrive and creating a level playing field for those outside of the municipal boundaries receiving the benefits and amenities of city and town living.

How it works
The current annexation process is a labyrinth of requirements and safeguards and was designed by rural stakeholders seeking increased transparency, fairness, and accountability. Before an annexation ordinance is introduced, municipalities must undertake extensive planning, including mapping territory boundaries, developing service extension plans, and conducting detailed fiscal impact analyses.

Public outreach is a cornerstone of the process, with multiple meetings and notifications required to engage impacted taxpayers. The property owner remonstrance process provides a legal mechanism for taxpayers to voice concerns and block annexation if sufficient opposition is mobilized.

While legislative reforms have reshaped the annexation landscape and reduced annexations, they have also highlighted that annexation does indeed have a purpose in a state looking for every economic and talent-growth advantage. Whether a spot annexation approved by the legislature or a large-scale growth to accommodate an unprecedented development, the vital services of our cities and towns are becoming harder to ignore.

And whether you stand pro or con on the annexation ballot, balancing the interests of property owners, municipalities, and our citizens at large, requires a problem-solving approach.

As we all grapple with the challenges of growth and development, it’s time to recognize that municipal annexation has its place in shaping the future prosperity of our state.

By trusting the hard-fought provisions within current law while also accepting annexation as a strategic tool for managing growth, addressing housing demands, and fulfilling requests for expanded utility services, we can work together for a thriving state with quality communities, and a healthy respect for each and every layer making up the Hoosier landscape.

SOURCE: Indiana Capital Chronicle

The Terminal