(10/17) - Town commissioners unanimously denied a request Tuesday evening to annex the area known as the Myers Farm.
Therefore, said Mayor Martin Burns, residents should be prepared to pay higher taxes and water and sewer bills to cover costs of a state-mandated sewer rehabilitation.
Developer Tom Hudson and HKB Myers Land LLC planned to build 350 homes, a retail center and a medical facility on the 210 acres located along U.S. 15 north of North Franklinville Road.
In return for annexation, Hudson was prepared to provide the development's own wastewater treatment plant and all necessary water, as well as $2 million, between $5,000 and $7,000 per house, in
donations. He also offered $1.75 million in water and sewer hookup fees, even though none of the homes would use the town's system.
Hudson's offer included $145,000 that the town could spend on whatever it chose, and $1 million to $2 million for a community swimming pool.
The town would likely have used some of Hudson's money for the $4.6 million sewer rehabilitation.
Opinion was mixed during the public comment portion of Tuesday's hearing.
Several residents cited increased traffic on U.S. 15, the loss of the area's "small-town" feel, and the view that commissioners were using the annexation as a "quick fix" for fiscal problems.
Those in support of the proposal said the town needed more businesses and a medical facility, and places for young people to socialize. Some said the plan would bring jobs and at least some
However, despite the financial incentive, commissioners decided the negative effects were too great to overlook. Three of the five commissioners cited the inevitable increase in traffic on U.S. 15
as a reason to deny the proposal.
Burns said he did not have a strong opinion either way, but said he would follow the wishes of his constituents, hundreds of which responded to a poll he conducted last fall.
Two-thirds of poll respondents said they were not in favor of the annexation. Also, in the recent town election, voters chose two commissioners who opposed the proposal.
Burns said that since the majority of town residents were not in favor of the annexation, they should be ready for the higher taxes necessary to fix the town's troubled sewer system. He would have
voted for the annexation if he thought the town would "go down the tubes" without it or if he thought constituents were misinformed.
"Taxes will go up, and water and sewer rates are going up in a significantly drastic way," he said.
Hudson declined to comment following the decision, as did other partners in HKB Myers Land LLC.
Commissioners also urged residents to bury the hard feelings the proposal has created since it was first presented more than a year ago.
"In the 18 years I've been on the board, this is the most divisive issue," said commissioner Wayne Hooper. "There is no winner or loser here ... I hope the animosity is put aside."