BROWNSBURG — In a three-hour meeting that was at times contentious, the most searing of hot-button issues surrounding Brownsburg over the last few months culminated in a 3-2 vote by the council in favor of annexing 4,500 acres in the North and Ward territories.
A standing room-only crowd, mostly opposed to the annexation, came to give their final thoughts on the decision. One resident called pro-annexation members of the town council “rapists” and another said “you must be blind, deaf, or ignorant” and then said that it couldn’t be the first two.
Many residents said that regardless of town ordinances, they still worry that regulations would still force them to hook up to town water and sewer, a cost they simply couldn’t afford to bear.
Still, citing the desire to prepare for measured growth and with an eye 20 years ahead, Council President Dwayne Sawyer, along with councilmen Gary Hood and Rob Kendall, voted to pass the annexation of the two territories. Councilmen Don Spencer and Dave Richardson were the two opposing voters.
“The e-mail that I happened to pull out was one asking, ‘Will this annexation help Brownsburg 20 years from now?’” said Hood explaining his vote. “That’s a long time. A lot of us may not be here at that point, but many of us will. And there will be additional people who are coming, because growth will continue. I believe fundamentally that this annexation will position the community to be a much better community 20 years from now.”
Richardson gave his reasoning for opposing the annexation, saying it wasn’t necessarily the legislation that he disagreed with, rather the desire of the people in the room and living in the annexation areas that was influencing his vote.
“This stopped being about annexation for me about a month or two ago,” he said. “For me, this is about the will of the people. I think annexation is a good idea. To me, when we talk about the town, we’re not talking about buildings, streets, we’re not talking about street lights and yards. We’re talking about people. I can’t in good conscience vote for something that I might think is a good idea, but the people clearly have said ‘leave me alone.’”
Richardson went on to say that of the 1,200 parcels in the North annexation area, over 600 have already signed their names in opposition, and he said that majority is where he believes his vote should go with.
Kendall, a Brownsburg resident since 1986, offered his explanation for his vote, saying he cared deeply about the community and felt this was the best way to move it forward to assure self-controlled growth.
“As a child, I shopped at Jesse’s, ate ice cream at Hollet and Harmon, and played Little League baseball at Arbuckle Acres,” he started out saying. “Like many of you, the happiest moments of my life are connected to Brownsburg. Many have talked about not wanting to become Indianapolis. I could not agree more. The only way to ensure that does not happen is to give everyone in this room a voice in the future of Brownsburg. Annexation allows the town to spend millions of dollars over the next decade to ensure items such as infrastructure and public safety are adequately addressed.”
Kendall said he hoped that the council had done enough to quell the concerns of residents, specifically regarding potentially lost school funding. He cited a recent decision by the town’s Redevelopment Commission to amend the TIF pass-through district to ensure more money goes to the taxing entities like the Brownsburg Community School Corporation as a sign the council has tried to meet in the middle.
Spencer said that he thought annexation was a good idea for measured growth, but that the council should take a step back and work further with the citizens to come to an agreement on how growth should be planned for.
“This is a decision that is weighing heavily on me and my colleagues,” he said. “I’m an engineer. I’m a pragmatist by my being. I moved away and moved back, because I love this community. I happen to believe that annexation is a good tool for responsible, measured growth, but I think our mistake as a town was not measuring or stepping through this more responsibly. I would continue to oppose this annexation so we can step back, take a well-measured stepped approach, involve the community, and gain their trust, support, and confidence back.”
Sawyer was last to speak on the topic.
“I am excited about the path we are on and the potential that we have,” he said as some of the room emptied upon understanding where his vote would go. “We ask to look for the long-term best interest of the town of Brownsburg as a whole. There is a quality of life here that we all love and want to continue here. With the annexation, the town’s overall tax rate is estimated to go down again by 1.2 percent.”
Sawyer then tackled the issue that was at the centerpiece for many residents — forcibly being hooked up to water and sewer. Many throughout the night gave impassioned commentary that they would be forced to move, unable to incur the costs associated with it. Sawyer tried to quell those fears.
“The answer to that question (of being forced to hook up to water and sewer) is the same as yesterday, today, tomorrow, and next month. The answer is simply put — no. The town of Brownsburg will not force you to hook up to town water and sewer if you don’t want to. The town ordinance has been modified to better reflect that.”
He did say that within three years those services would be provided, but not mandated.
Residents disappointed with the ruling promised to obtain the necessary signatures to take the battle further to court with remonstration.