LOWELL | With the loss of one of the town's three remaining manufacturers this week, moving on annexation to expand the tax base is timely, town leaders said Thursday.
Ashland Products, 790 W. Commercial Ave., is pulling out, Town Council President Phillip Kuiper, D-4th, said during a joint annexation session with plan commissioners, redevelopment commission and annexation committee members.
The company's departure emphasizes the town's need to capture more acreage for development, Kuiper said.
Next up to be annexed should be 80 acres running south from the town's west end, consultant James Mandon said. Long touted by the Lowell Redevelopment Commission, the property has been a lure to developers in the past and includes rail and highway access.
"We have had light industries inquire in recent years but we didn't have property to show them," Kuiper said.
Mandon was directed to begin preparing a land use inventory of vacant property within the town. It will eventually be expanded to a land use plan and map for the town and possible areas for annexation.
Those involved Thursday came away with a homework assignment: to write down their "vision for Lowell," including annexation and beyond.
Annexation committee member Marcia Carlson said she made the suggestion because "some may not want to speak up in this forum."
Frustrated Councilman Don Parker, D-3rd, said he wants to see movement on annexation.
"We get good ideas but then we do nothing," he said.
Doug Niksch, the redevelopment panel president, said the commission will not be taking anything off the table unless an eventual annexation plan takes it off.
Talks also included creating a downtown district eligible for federal revitalization funds.