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City Council Annexes Area 1A, Recesses To Next Week

Bloomington Annexation Map

Area 1A was adopted Wednesday night by a vote of 6-3. (City of Bloomington)

After years of talks, delays, meetings, hearings, and debate – Bloomington city council was set to take on annexation one more time. They’ll just have to do it in two nights.

Wednesday night’s agenda featured a final vote on eight ordinances corresponding to each proposed annexed area.

But fiscal plan resolutions and an added amendment took up most of the time. Council only got through one ordinance - the northwest Area 1A and adopted it by a vote of 6-3.

Area 1A is the largest proposed annexation area at more than 3,200 acres and second most populous with 4,000 residents.

Kate Rosenbarger, Sue Sgambelluri, Jim Sims, Matt Flaherty, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, and Steve Volan voted yes. Ron Smith, Susan Sandberg, and Dave Rollo voted no. 

READ MORE: Pushing City Limits: Bloomington Annexation Coverage

The meeting didn’t start as originally planned. An amendment was introduced removing the Heritage Woods and Cedar Springs properties in southeast Area 2. Councilmember Smith introduced a similar amendment that was voted down previously due to contiguity issues and the removal of Cedar Springs.

This time around a nonbinding request was inserted to add Cedar Springs to the annexation plan at a later date.

City attorney Mike Rouker said any amendments now would force changes to the fiscal plan delaying tonight’s annexation vote.

After a dozen public comments calling for the amendment to be approved, it failed again 6-3. Smith, Sandberg, and Rollo voted in favor of the amendment.

Council also adopted updated fiscal plans for each of the proposed annexation areas.

Much of the debate from previous meetings returned such as the effect higher taxes could have on low-income housing and rent rates and how the city would be able to hire the police needed to cover annexed areas.

“I don’t believe you, I don’t think you’ve done your homework, I don’t think this will work,” public commenter Margaret Clements said.  

Councilmember Sandberg says the lack of support from the county commissioners is giving her great pause on annexation.

"Given all that we’ve heard, and all that we’ve examined, I find myself completely losing my appetite for involuntary annexation, it would certainly be my hope that we could do so more incrementally.”

Monroe Co. Annexation Forum
Monroe Co. Commissioners and Baker Tilly representatives early August (Joe Hren, WFIU/WTIU News)

County commissioner Julie Thomas says an independent Baker Tilly audit indicates the county could lose $2.7 million a year.

“All county residents whether they live in the city or areas targeted for annexation or not will be impacted by these reduced revenues.”

A representative from the city’s Reedy Financial Group report says the reduction would be more like $1.89 million because the county audit didn’t take into account assessed value growth.

One public commenter did speak in favor of annexation. Jennifer Kellett says she’s a one car household and is looking forward to the possibility of bus service.

“I would not live here if it were not for the city of Bloomington so I believe it’s my duty as a citizen to be a part of this community.”

The fiscal plans were adopted by a 6-3 vote with Smith, Sandberg, and Rollo voting no.

City administration introduced an amendment to remove one parcel from annexation area 1A including the former GE plant now owned by Cook Inc.

Cook struck a deal with the city of Bloomington in 2017 to avoid annexation of its Monroe County properties. Under the deal, Cook will pay the city $100,000 a year for 15 years and could go up if it doesn't meet goals for investment and employment in Monroe County.

The amendment passed 5-2-2 with abstentions by Volan and Rollo and no votes by Sandberg and Smith.

READ MORE: Annexation Petitioners Going Door To Door; Mayor Says Remonstration Could End Up In Court

The majority of councilmembers did speak in favor of annexation. Volan called the delayed annexation a ‘tax abatement’ referring to the years proposed annexation areas did not have to pay for city services.

“People live close to Bloomington, because of Bloomington,” councilmember Isabel Piedmont-Smith said.

More than a 100 people were on the Zoom meeting, by 11:15 p.m. the number dwindled to about 75. Council recessed the meeting to next Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. to vote on the remaining 7 areas.

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