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Austin seeks annexation

Council looks to try again despite Lansing Township Board’s opposition

By Tim Ruzek

truzek@postbulletin.com

Austin city officials plan to submit an agreement to orderly annex more than 200 parcels of land in Lansing Township, despite the township board’s unanimous vote in early April to stop talks related to annexation.

Lansing Township can vote against the idea again, but city leaders said Tuesday that such formal action by the Austin City Council at least would assure property owners in the targeted area that the city is willing to annex their land.

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Annexation then could be pursued if the council passes an ordinance to annex the land touching city boundaries, or property owners in the area could create a petition for annexation, city officials said.

Orderly annexation, though, is the best route, they said.

City staff members recommended an orderly annexation agreement during a council work session Tuesday, stating that it would show the city acted in good faith based on recommendations of an ad-hoc committee for the issue and on informational voting results of property owners in that area.

Council members unanimously agreed Tuesday to direct city staff members to start preparing an agreement for orderly annexation that, if approved, would be submitted to the township board.

The council likely will vote on an agreement during its second meeting in June, City Engineer Jon Erichson said. Staff members probably will try to "fine-tune" the annexation’s size, he added.

Lansing Township Board voted during an April 4 meeting to discontinue talks with the city related to Austin annexing roughly 209 parcels on both sides of the Cedar River up to the Ramsey Dam area. The board decided that allowing the annexation of the entire service area would not be in the township’s best interest.

About 23 percent of the township’s tax base comes from the targeted area, which covers roughly 350 acres. Under annexation of any form, though, tax revenue from the affected land wouldn’t go immediately to the city.

State officials also need to approve any annexation plan.

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A group of township residents approached the city last year about possibly providing sewer services; the township also had a plan for a community septic system. Some properties in the area have septic systems that do not meet state code but the lots are too small to install tanks that follow the law.

In January, property owners in the area voted informally on if they wanted a community septic system and, if so, whether it should be with the city or township. Each vote represented one parcel within the area.

The city said the vote showed that 90 percent of the 115.5 ballots that wanted a community system also favored the city’s plan. Overall, 167 ballots out of 209 were returned.

Township officials, countered that by saying that if all possible ballots are included, less than 50 percent of property owners favored annexation.

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