LOWELL | Town leaders seem poised to stretch town boundaries with possibilities to the south, east and west, but — they need a plan.
Consultant Jim Mandon told the Lowell Redevelopment Commission on Tuesday that prioritizing areas and hearing from those in and out of town are important first steps.
"You really need a plan," Mandon said. He said those living in affected areas should be engaged through public meetings. Town leaders must determine the goals to be accomplished through annexation, then close in on them, Mandon said.
An annexation plan would be developed by the Lowell Annexation Committee for which Mandon is also consulting.
After companies developing near Interstate 65 and Ind. 2 with the Illiana Expressway in mind expressed interest last month in the town's annexation of the area, the Lowell redevelopment panel listened.
"I-65 is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but it's the furthest. It'll probably take years to get to 65," said Phillip Kuiper, D-4th. Kuiper is a Redevelopment Commission member and Town Council president.
Mandon concurred. "For annexation, you have to show you need the property for some legitimate purpose," he said. One reason could be to bring town-owned utilities such as Lowell's water and sewage treatment plants into town borders. A lack of space for continued development is another valid reason. Concern that another community might get to I-65 first is not a good reason, he said.
Mandon reviewed the fiscal plan for annexing 80 acres at the southeast corner of Ind. 2 and Austin Avenue prepared by financial consultant Greg Guerretaz. He said the reason to annex there is valid because the town needs acreage that can be developed. It makes financial sense for the town because few live there and providing services there would be relatively simple. The land would be brought into the newly created agricultural zone in the town. There should be no increase in taxes to those whose property is annexed, he said.
Scott Kiechle, who lives at 19910 Colfax St., has been monitoring Lowell annexation discussions because he lives in one of the affected areas. He said worry about higher taxes is not the only reason people resist annexation. Instead, he said, the increased cost for water, garbage pickup and sewage are to be considered.
"We lose greater flexibility," Kiechle said of annexation. "We lose the value of why we purchased there. We consciously chose to live rural," he said.
The Lowell Redevelopment Commission's next meeting is at 6 p.m. Aug. 23.