By Lauren Zeugner
SYRACUSE — A long discussion was held on a “new business” item regarding extending utility service outside the town limits during the Syracuse Town Council’s regular meeting Tuesday night, Sept. 19.
Councilman Larry Siegel brought the matter up stating he had sent emails to the rest of the council with his thoughts. Attorney Steve Unger, an attorney with Bose McKiney & Evans in Indianapolis, came in through a Zoom call. Unger has experience in annexation issues.
David Wilkinson, town manager, explained he reached out to Unger regarding extending utilities without annexation. Unger recommends not extending utilities unless the developer or property owner agrees to annexation into the town limits.
If annexation isn’t complete at the start of a project a municipality may not be able to annex later.
Unger used Fox Run as an example. The town extended water and sewer to the development, but residents are not interested in being annexed into the town limits, and the council cannot force the matter under state law.
Unger said it was easier to get developers to agree to annexation before construction starts, however, even with agreements, fights still erupt because residents don’t want annexation after moving in.
Unger reviewed other tools such as tax increment finance districts and the types of annexation allowed in the state.
At the heart of the discussion was the possible annexation of a proposed RV park. Earlier this year the town voted to extend water and sewer to the park even though annexation was thought to not be possible.
Conversation continued for over a half hour with council members getting fidgety as the regular council monthly meeting had already run over two hours. Councilman Paul Stoelting pointed out several times the discussion should have been an agenda item, not something to be discussed under “new business” which is at the bottom of the meeting agenda.
Several times council members agreed to have Wilkinson and Unger explore whether annexing the proposed RV park would even be possible.
Councilman Larry Siegel said they were discussing the matter, he asked Council President Cindy Kaiser if she had any questions for Unger. She said no, but she would like to hear what Councilman Nathan Scherer had to say, but that Siegel kept interrupting him.
In the end, the council directed Wilkinson to work with Unger on starting the annexation process for the new RV park.
Earlier in the meeting the council heard a proposal from Ben Plikerd, representing Indiana Telephone Network, requested permission to put equipment on the north water tower.
Currently Indiana Telephone Network’s equipment is on buildings at Sweet Licks which are slated for demolition in December.
Plikerd noted if the council won’t rent space on the water tower, space in the parking lot of Wawasee Plaza was zoned 10 years ago to allow for a 175 foot cell tower.
The council said it would review his proposal, discuss the matter with Mark Aurich, public works superintendent and have a decision at the October council meeting.
Town Attorney Jay Rigdon presented the proposed outdoor dining ordinance. After a few changes suggested by the council, the ordinance should be ready for approval at the October council meeting.