If Bloomington’s planned annexation is successful, the city will add to its population an estimated 14,000 people, several cows, a pig or two, and at least one chicken, whose “eyes don’t work any more.”
For the hen’s owner, Susan Brackney, the longer phrase in place of a single adjective is a nicer way of describing the bird’s current abilities.
Brackney would prefer that she and the chicken not become a part of the city’s census.
But Bloomington’s annexation plan calls for Area 4, where Brackney and about 400 other people live, to become a part of the city starting on Jan. 1, 2024.
Area 4 is one of eight separate areas that Bloomington wants to annex into the city.
With an Aug. 4 public hearing on the horizon, and a city council vote that will likely come in September, some residents who oppose annexation are using the earlier part of the summer to organize their opposition.
To help with the organization, Brackney has produced a three-and-a-half minute video, which was posted on YouTube earlier this week. The footage highlights the rural aspects of Area 4, and features on-camera speaking turns from residents like her, who oppose annexation into the city.
Brackney and the chicken take their own turn in front of the camera. “You have these low-income, fixed-income people who aren’t going to be able to afford to stay,” she says. It’s an allusion to the additional property taxes paid by property owners inside the city limits.
According to the calculations by the city of Bloomington’s consultant, Reedy Financial Group, the median net increase of property taxes for a property owner in Area 4 would be about $459 a year.
For some Area 4 residents, the kind of additional infrastructure that higher taxes might eventually add to the area would not be welcome. In the video, Lisa P. says, “We don’t want sidewalks. We definitely don’t want to pay higher taxes.”
The video’s soundtrack, a spoof of the 1982 song “Our House” by Madness, conveys no fondness for streetlights. As the lyric puts it: “Our nights are nice and dark.”
Brackney told The B Square her sightless chicken stays glued to her when it’s out of its coop, where it is protected from the hawks that sometimes cast a shadow over her backyard. It is not the only farm animal that resides in Area 4. A slumbering swine also makes an appearance in the video.
And Lisa P. says, “We want to keep our cows.”
An emailed question from The B Square, about the impact of annexation on farm animals, got a response from the city’s director of public engagement, Mary Catherine Carmichael. Farm animals would be “grandfathered in,” she said.
Area 4 is currently a 96-acre “island.” Bloomington makes up the municipal “ocean” on all sides. Area 4 is wedged south of 3rd Street and north of 2nd Street, just after the thoroughfare veers to the southwest and becomes Bloomfield Road.
Area 4 is one of three “islands” that are part of Bloomington’s annexation plan—the other two are Area 3 and Area 4.
For many, it’s the so-called “islands”—or “donut holes” or just plain “holes”—that are the most obvious candidates for annexation by the city of Bloomington.
In an email to The B Square, Brackney wrote about those who conclude that Area 4 would be a good candidate for annexation, based on its status on the map as an “island”: “Maybe they should just stop staring at the map?”
It is more than map aesthetics that gives momentum to the idea of annexation for “islands” like Area 4. Due in part to its geography, wholly inside the city, the financial cost to the city of Bloomington of annexing just Area 4, compared to the cost of annexing other areas, is relatively small.
By the fourth year after annexation, Bloomington’s consultant estimates the city would need 31 additional sworn police officers at a cost of up to $2.9 million to extend city policing services to all of the proposed annexation areas. But Area 4’s portion of the additional policing cost in that year is estimated to be just $24,168.
The public hearing on annexation for all the areas has been given public notice for Aug. 4 starting at 3:30 p.m. The city council’s vote on each of the proposed annexation areas, in the form of eight separate ordinances, won’t come until sometime in September.
In the run-up to the Aug. 4 hearing, what Brackney calls “pre-petition petitions” for Area 4 are going to be circulated. It will be a demonstration of the likely prospects for an actual remonstrance petition, which can be circulated only after the Bloomington city council enacts the annexation ordinances.
Brackney told The B Square, “I will be pounding the pavement, probably this weekend, getting signatures.”
When Bloomington initiated a nearly identical annexation proposal in 2017, the strategy of submitting informal “pre-petition petitions” appeared to have swayed the city council at the time to exclude Area 6 from the mix.
Bloomington’s 2017 annexation effort was scuttled by the state legislature in 2017. But Bloomington filed a lawsuit, which got a ruling from Indiana’s Supreme Court late last year in the city’s favor.
How does remonstrance factor into the annexation process? If 65 percent of the affected landowners, or if owners of 80 percent of the assessed property value in the proposed annexation area, sign a remonstrance petition, then the annexation is automatically stopped
, for review by a court. [IC 36-4-3-11.3]
The court is required to order the annexation to go forward, if certain objective conditions are met—and if the city is able to show that the annexation is in the best interest of the owners of land in the territory to be annexed. Among the conditions listed out in the statute is that the population density in a proposed annexation area is at least three people per acre. [IC 6-4-3-13]
The density condition is met by Area 4, with its 4.52 people per acre.
Before the Aug. 4 hearing, Monroe County’s government will be getting an analysis of the impact on county government finances from its own consultant, Baker Tilly.
Monroe County attorney Jeff Cockerill told The B Square the forthcoming Baker Tilly analysis would be on the July 27 work session agenda for the county council. Based on Cockerill’s emailed description, there will be additional dates scheduled for presentation of Baker Tilly’s work.