BROWNSBURG — BROWNSBURG — Intuition can be a funny thing. It’s that little gnawing feeling that says, “Something here is not quite right. I can’t put my finger on it just yet, but something is up.”
Some Brownsburg residents are saying just that over the long standing issue of annexation facing the town and its surrounding townships.
The proposed annexation of the Northern Acres, Northwood, Burns, and Starkey communities into Brownsburg has been a hot topic in the area for some time. Things are heating up again now that future resident Eric Willman and his wife Catherine are building a home in the Northwood subdivision and seeking annexation for their lot by the town. The Willmans have already been approved to have use of the town’s water and sewer and their new neighbors are questioning why they continue to seek annexation.
As voiced in last week’s town council meeting, some believe it’s for political gain. Willman is part of the Brownsburg Plan Commission and was the 2010 president of the Board of Zoning Appeals. Some of his neighbors believe those seats have afforded him a little extra wiggle room in the construction of his home.
Northwood resident Tom Harris said, “I agree that it should be all or none of us. If it’s just for political gain, I don’t think that’s right.”
Todd Barker, director of the plan commission, attested in last week’s council meeting that Willman had in fact met all the fees correlated with annexation and that his home meets the code of Brownsburg’s zoning ordinances. Willman has also agreed to pay any future fees associated with the cost of annexation, if the subdivision ever moves forward with it.
Still, a few Northwood residents aren’t buying it. A number of residents came before the council expressing concern over the fairness of a single lot being annexed into the town for any reason, citing an “all or none” belief.
“Does each of us individually get to come in and ask for annexation?” asked Northwood resident Dr. Mark Mischler.
Several residents came before the council and said that despite being for or against annexation, they believed that either all of the homes in their addition should be annexed or none of them. It makes little sense to annex a single home, they argued.
Take John W. Hendricks for example. He bought the first lot in Northwood in the 1970s. When the issue of annexation first came up years ago, Hendricks said some in the neighborhood were in favor, while others were against it. The issue was at a standstill until just a few years ago when the town hired a consulting firm to look at the costs associated with providing sewer and water to residents in those areas. That project was shelved for several reasons, but also because the homeowners association did not approve a mandatory per lot assessment.
Residents of Northwood, Northern Acres, Burns, and Starkey have long been plagued with drainage and sewer issues. Some of the homes still use wells and many others have failing septic tanks that can create health issues. Not all residents in the area have the problem though, and therefore some don’t feel annexation for that reason is necessary.
Others cite high tax rates in Brownsburg as a reason not to annex.
Homeowners in the area who are not a part of the town may request to tie into the town’s utility and sewer system. However, they enter the agreement under the premise that if and when the town decides to annex that property, the homeowner will not remonstrate.
Willman said at last week’s meeting that he sympathizes with those who are having issues with their septic systems.
“I do hope the council takes to heart some of the problems homeowners are having with their sewer systems,” he said.
He denies that he is seeking annexation for political or financial motivations as accused.
“I’m not planning on running for public office this year,” Willman said. “In terms of serving on the BZA and Plan Commission, I took home about $800 last year. So I can’t really say it’s for financial gain.”
Town Council President Matthew Bowles asked Barker to further investigate the situation and feelings of residents in the Northwood subdivision.
“I’m hearing there’s been a change of heart from what we’ve previously heard from looking at all four neighborhoods together,” Bowles said.
When contacted by the Hendricks County Flyer on Thursday of this week, Barker said he had not yet started the investigation.
Despite dissent from the audience and a motion to table the reading until Barker concluded his investigation, the council voted three to two to go ahead and pass the second reading of the ordinance concerning Willman’s property.
The next town council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 27 in the Town Council Room at 61 N. Green St., Brownsburg.