Elwood Indiana FORCED Annexation and how it might affect R&M Ranch

Monday, May 11, 2015

Elwood Indiana FORCED Annexation! Please take a moment to read this if you care anything about the future of the Equine Rescues that go through the doors of R&M Ranch!

 

Update as of 5/15/2015:

 

We, R&M Ranch, have been told that we are now out of the annex crosshairs!  :-)  The Elwood council is cutting out some of Areas #1 and #2.

 

I'd like to add, and clear up some confusion, not all council members are for this annex, there have been 3 so far who have come forward to let us know that they are against this. We need a total of 4 votes of “NO to the annex” from the council members to ixnay the forced annex all together! We feel that all should still stay on board to help those who are still in the crosshairs. There are still reasons we all should not want this annex... possible raised taxes on those of us outside the proposed areas to compensate for the loss on the county/township side is one reason, loss of some of the small businesses who are still in the proposed annex area, etc... Also, it's not fair to those of us outside the city limits to be annexed in just to pay higher taxes so that the city can dig itself out of a financial hole that other officials put them in (especially when Elwood has one of the highest taxes in the county, comparable to Anderson, see more about that further down in the original post section) and the fact that it's still a forced annex on those who do not want it... none of that is right in our book! So please keep calling, emailing, etc... the council and help them understand why this forced annexation is NOT a good idea for us or for the town/city of Elwood!  More about why it is not a good plan can be found further down on this page.

 

Even tho we are one of the ones not being annexed this time, the lawyer and the company who drew up the maps, still say they can annex us that are north of SR28 at another time, per the news media outlets who are covering the story. The city of Elwood would have to make it a separate annex because there is no land joining across SR28 and the town already owns some land on both sides... or something like that (it was a bit confusing to us). So that is the reason they are saying they can not annex both sides of SR28 as one annex area and cut it down for that proposed section.  We're now wondering if that's why they REALLY had to cut down the 2 of the 4 areas and not because of the public outcry of people who were against the annex (as the news media reports on some of why the city cut down on the proposed annex areas).

 

Also, it's upsetting that they only talk about things such as; we (the property owners) were only "concerned about livestock and shooting guns" (as stated in some of the news media). There are MANY more things that we are worried about other than livestock and guns!

 

I'd also like to point out that the lawyer, the company who drew up these annex maps, said that the city could possibly "make a few exceptions" and “they could look into the zoning classifications and possibly adopt an ordinance which would give the guidelines” when it comes to ordinances/laws (this was posted in the news media outlets too).  This we feel is contradicting what was originally told to many of us when we asked some of the parties involved about the city ordinances vs. the county ordinances and any of our grandfather clauses.  We were told that our grandfather clauses would stay in affect, that the city was not trying to change how we do anything, and that if need be things DEFINITELY would be written in to this annex on allowing those of us with farms, ranches, and livestock to go on about what we already do without any disturbances or changes to the way we do them when it came to laws/ordinances.  “Possibly” is not a guarantee that all parties who have farm/ranch properties will be allowed to go on about their business as usual. So there is concern that the city laws/ordinances will be enforced on some, if not all, of the farms and ranches if they are annexed into the city... which could put the farm/ranch out of business.

 

The online map can be found here:

http://goo.gl/kMmJMC

 

 


Original post:

 

If this annexation goes through there is a good possibility that we at R&M Ranch​ will no longer be able to do the intake for Madison County on horse neglect cases.  Our taxes will go up, more than likely double what they are now. The cost to water all livestock will go up with the city eventually forcing us to hook into their water and sewer systems that they will run someday... on top of the cost of us having to pay to hook into that system ourselves. We are already grandfathered in with livestock and poultry, etc... We own horses, goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, dogs, cats, etc...  The city ordinances will more than likely be enforced on us in one way or another, despite our current grandfather clause. So, we will either not be allowed to have some of the types of animals that we have now or will be strictly limited to the amount of animals on our property and will not be allowed to add any. That would mean that if we are at the limit, that the city ordnance says we have to be at, we will not be able to take in a new neglect case for the county till another animal is able to be moved off the property (and even then sometimes towns who annex farm/ranch property's will not allow you to add another animal in once one is gone, which eventually sometimes leads to a farm/ranch not having any animals at all and having to shut down). We might end up having to sell and find somewhere else that might not have as much land as we would need to continue to do the rescue work we do now. We rescue, rehabilitate, and rehome... and it comes out of our own pockets with little help from outside sources to assist in covering those costs. Where will the neglected equine in the county go if this happens? Most likely they will either not be investigated, not be seized to receive proper care or if they are seized they will be taken to auction to be sold after the hold time (10 days for seizures, 5 days for strays) or possibly given to unreputable and/or unknowledgeable organizations or persons. Unfortunately the county will have no other choice if they have to seize but have no where for the horses to go, because there have been only a hand full of other individuals who have been willing to help this county by taking in horse neglect cases, and most of them were just a "one time deal".

 

Some are asking "Why wouldn't you want to support our town and help bring in more money for the schools?".  To answer that question, our child does not go to Elwood schools (even tho we are in the district to send her there) because of many reasons. One being we did not like the fact that they moved small children to the same building that the Jr/Sr High students are in, another is that our Son went there and they didn't seem too interested in making sure he got an education (we came from Noblesville schools that did care about him, when we got here that all went down the drain). Some have also asked "Why wouldn't you want to help expand and support this town?" My answer to that is... Elwood has many many many problems that they need to resolve before they go adding in costs to their budget. They can't even afford to fix their own roads, can't afford to put up the down town Christmas lights this year (that they received a grant for just 2 years ago), they can't even afford to finish up and assist with the new animal shelter like they should be able to do, they can't even afford to pay just ONE animal control officer the amount of money she should be making or the overtime she puts in on a daily basis (she spends countless hours off the clock doing the work that she should be getting paid to do and a great amount of her own money to purchase the things the animals need), etc... I could go on and on about all the things that Elwood needs to fix in their own backyard! So why would a town want to annex in more to have to take care of? Because all they see are dollar signs from the taxes they will get! But what they are not thinking about are all the added costs involved in taking on all that annexed area that will NOT be fully covered by just the tax dollars they will receive!

 

I would also like to point out that it's not just the people and property owners within the proposed annexation areas that will see an increase in taxes and utility bills... but others around us are more than likely going to suffer from it too (they just haven't been enlightened about that yet), by increased taxes and costs to help pay for services provided to those of us in the annex areas and the loss of a tax-base to the emergency services and such with those (outside city limits) of the annex area. So, I truly feel that we need everybody to support us, even if they are not within the proposed annex areas. The ones within city limits will be listened to because they can VOTE for the ones trying to annex us. The ones outside of the city limits and annex area might be able to put in some calls to Madison County to see if the county might be willing to step in and say they do not agree with the annex. We don't know if any of that will help, but anything is worth a shot!

 

Are we totally against Elwood? NO! We shop here, have friends here, love the small town atmosphere, etc… I even help Elwood Animal Control and the new shelter Heart of Hoosierland Animal Shelter when I can, by donating things, sharing their info, helping with fundraisers, etc... So it goes without saying, I like the town and want it to have a good future... but I do not want to be forced to be within town/city limits. If we wanted to live within city or town limits we would have purchased a house inside city or town limits!

 

Senate Bill 330, https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2015/bills/senate/330# , will not go into affect as law until July 1st. Elwood is taking our annex to vote at the end of June. They are definitely trying to get it in "under the wire"! THIS is why the City of Elwood Indiana is in such a big rush to annex us!!! They know that if they don't get it done before the beginning of July that it would NOT go through if it was not a FORCED Annex on all of us because the majority of us are AGAINST this annex!!! This came at all of us like a sucker punch!!! It's not just the people who own farms, ranches, or livestock that do not want this... it is the home owners and businesses too!

 

Here are a few of the unanswered questions we personally have asked the town and they have yet to come up with a clear answer for us:

How are the TAX increases on us going to help us in any of this? Taxes always increase... no matter what, so this initial increase that you have supposedly told all of us is not where it is going to stop, especially when the city tax is double what the county tax is. No other small town in Madison County has as high of a tax rate and a LOT of the other small towns in Madison County are a LOT nicer than Elwood! Elwood's taxes are comparable to Anderson tax rates! http://www.stats.indiana.edu/dms4/propertytaxes.asp  So WHERE is all the tax money going that you are taking in Elwood???!!! How are the increases in money we will have to spend going to help us when they come along and tell us that we have to hook into Elwood water and sewer and have to pay for it out of our own pocket... and then because we have livestock and 19 acres our bill will be MUCH more than what we pay now in just the electricity it takes to run our pump to water all our livestock and run the water in our house?! How are the town/city ordinances going to affect us being able to keep our livestock, increase our livestock if we want to, add new buildings to our property if we want to, shoot our guns on our property to protect our livestock if needed (we have wildlife and stray dogs that come on the property from time to time and attack our livestock, chickens, ducks... we try our best to ward them off before having to take drastic measures, so please don't take that wrong), etc...? Is our current grandfather clause going to hold up in this annex? Is our grandfather clause going to go to the next owner should we hand it over to our children or sell it? Will the value of our land, buildings, and house go up or down with this annex? (more than likely down) Will our insurance on our property and house go up or down with this annex? (more than likely up) How is the Elwood Fire Department going to handle fires in rural areas (especially field and wooded area fires) with no fire hydrants and no tanker truck? How is the city going to plow the more rural country roads they want to include in this annex with the little plow trucks they have? How is the city going to pay to purchase things needed to CORRECTLY provided such things as the tanker truck, fire hydrants, more emergency personnel (including police officers), larger/better plow trucks, added salt and storage for the added roads, extra personnel to help with plowing the roads in a timely fashion and to keep up with the constant snow drifts on the rural/country roads, etc... etc... etc... There are SO many more questions!

 

Here are some FAQ that the Stop the Annexation page put up:

https://www.facebook.com/stopelwoodannex

What is forced annexation?

Under Indiana law, both municipalities and citizens may initiate annexation of areas contiguous to the city’s borders. However, municipalities that initiate annexation have the legal power to unilaterally force this annexation on property owners whether they want it or not; in our state, this is known as “involuntary annexation.” It is a legal way for a local jurisdiction to take control of your property without a single vote by citizens. There are only three states left that allow this: Indiana, Idaho, and Tennessee. Movements are currently underway to eliminate this law in Idaho and in our state. Senate Bill 330 of the 2015 Indiana General Assembly would remove the ability of municipalities to perform involuntary annexation. If the new law is passed, it would go into effect July 1 of this year.

Why does your group oppose this annexation?

There are many reasons we stand against this annexation, but they can be summarized under three main headings:

1) Property Owners’ Rights – Our group opposes any effort to FORCE people into living inside city limits. Many people live outside the city limits because they’ve made the conscious choice to do so. In fact, several home owners have stated that should the city decide to annex their area, they would move from their current residence. Also, the elected officials responsible for overseeing and approving this annexation were voted into office by the citizens inside the city, but the citizens of the annexation area had no vote in those elections; we have no elected official that can represent our interests in this matter. A lack of representation is an enormous problem, one that laid at the very core of why our nation was founded. The properties rights of owners and the freedom to choose where one lives should not be violated by anyone, especially by using an antiquated law that should have been removed long ago.

2) Taxes – You know what they say… follow the money. The ultimate reason the city council wishes to annex the proposed areas is the inherent increase in tax revenue it would bring to the city. People have been told that their taxes might go down. This is true – a FEW land owners would see a small savings. However, the vast majority of land owners will see an increase in their tax burden. According to the city’s own Tax Impact Analysis, the combined increase in revenue for all four proposed areas will equal $111,582. The increases for individual land owners range from $10 to $6,634. In a stagnant economy, every dollar counts; we’ve even had several business owners share with us that the annexation would force them to close due to the increase in taxes. We believe the city should strive to operate inside of its budget rather than simply confiscating tax money from other sources.

3) Services – Higher taxes would be understandable if the citizens were able to enjoy city services as a result. In the certified letter that was mailed to everyone affected by the annexation, the city claims that they will provide the annexation area with a range of services, but closer scrutiny reveals some glaring issues with these claims. The city says it will provide police service; what it doesn't say is that police service is already provided. The city says it will provide fire coverage; what it doesn't say is that the city fire department is not equipped to fight fires in areas without hydrants and that coverage would have to be provided by other departments through mutual aid. The city says it will provide trash pickup; what it doesn't say is that this trash pickup is forced – you will be billed for it whether you want it or not. The city says it will provide street and road maintenance; does the city really have the necessary equipment, manpower, and finances to maintain (plow, patch, etc.) roads that are out in the country? The city says it will “extend” water and sewage services; what it also admits is that land owners wishing to connect with city water or sewage must do so at their own expense. So, to put it plainly, in return for an increase in taxes, the only concrete “benefit” for citizens of the annexation area is forced trash pickup. Taking without giving is not government by and for the people; it is government seeking only to protect its own interests.

Can citizens stop a municipality from annexing land?

The short answer is no. The city council has the legal right to approve the annexation ordinances, and there is nothing citizens can do to stop this from happening. However, once the annexation has been approved, under Indiana Code 36-4-3-11, we CAN appeal the decision by filing a written remonstrance with the superior court of Madison County. This remonstrance must be signed by a) 65% of the land owners, or b) owners of more than 75% in assessed valuation of the land in the annexation area. Land owners have 90 days following the publication of the annexation ordinance to file the remonstrance; if the court determines that the remonstrance is sufficient, it will fix a time within 60 days for a hearing on the remonstrance. Notice of the proceedings, in the form of a summons, will be served on the annexing municipality. The municipality is the defendant in the cause and shall appear and answer. If the land owners can prove that services are adequately provided and that annexation is not in their best interest, the court may order the annexation not to take place.

What actions are your group taking?

We are currently doing everything we can to inform people of the situation and encouraging them to share their concerns and/or opposition with the city council. We will be making contact with every land owner in the proposed annexation area in an effort to gain support for our cause; should the city council approve the annexation, we would conduct a petition drive to gather signatures for the remonstrance.

What can I do to help your cause?

We are asking citizens to support us in three ways:

1) Study up – Knowledge is power! Please keep an eye out for any information about the annexation in the newspaper, and make sure to follow our Facebook page for any related updates.

2) Speak up – Please help us get the word out about what this annexation means and about our efforts to stop it. Share what you know with family, friends, and neighbors, and make sure to like/share our Facebook page. Also, we are offering yard signs for purchase.

3) Show up – Over the next two months, there will be several meetings, forums, etc. concerning the annexation. We will do our best to keep everyone up to speed on these events; we are asking citizens to attend as many as they can. There is safety in numbers, and showing the city council that we are unified in our opposition as a community will speak volumes.

Is your group against the success of Elwood?

Absolutely not! We might not live inside city limits, but we love this community and we live here because we choose to. We all have relatives and friends that live in the city. We worship in Elwood churches. We buy food and fuel from Elwood stores. We cheer for Elwood sports teams. We want Elwood to be a thriving, financially stable municipality. We understand that annexation would bring tax revenue that the city could use, but annexation creates more problems than it solves and generates more questions than it answers. Spreading Elwood’s financial struggles to people that did not cause them in the first place is wrong, and while it might provide temporary relief, it will not solve the city’s bad fiscal habits. As stated, we feel that the city government should focus on improving that for which it is already responsible; there are plenty of projects inside Elwood that need to be tackled before knocking on doors outside the border.

I have a question about the annexation – who do I contact?

Any questions, thoughts, or suggestions related to the annexation can be sent to us by private message on Facebook. We will get back with you promptly with an answer. Also, please feel free to comment on any of our posts.

 

Stop the Annexation - Elwood, Indiana ​writes: We still have some time left before the public hearing on May 26, but that doesn't mean we have to wait to let our voices be heard! We are asking our supporters to please call or email each council member to let them know your thoughts on FORCED annexation. Let's do all that we can before the hearing to persuade the council that the proposed annexations are the wrong way to go! Please make sure to share this post so we reach as many people as possible. Thanks!!!

http://elwoodcity-in.org/government/city-council/

(Just in case...)

Tim Roby

(765) 552-7584

timroby@sbcglobal.net

Brent Boston

(765) 620-2722

bbosten@ymail.com

Pat Rice

(765) 620-4192

perice27@comcast.net

Todd Jones

(765) 620-7889

toddajones@hotmail.com

Kim Everson

(765) 621-4775

kimeverson@yahoo.com

Adrian Hiem

(765) 810-3269

Robert Eric Reese

(215) 310-8809

robertreese357@yahoo.com

 

Here is the Madison County contact info for those who would like to try and help by contacting them also:

http://www.madisoncty.com/Commissioners.html

http://www.madisoncty.com/CountyOffices.html 




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