Nearly four months after discussions began in Delaware City Council on the annexation of approximately 44 acres of land into the city as part of the Evans Farm development, a vote has finally been rendered.
During Monday’s meeting, council held the seventh reading of the ordinance before issuing a split vote of three votes each in favor and against the annexation; Councilman Cory Hoffman recused himself from the vote due to a potential conflict of interest. Due to the lack of four favorable votes, the ordinance for annexation was not passed.
Council members voting in favor of the ordinance were Chris Jones, Vice Mayor Kent Shafer and Mayor Carolyn Riggle. Council members Drew Farrell, George Hellinger and Lisa Keller voted against the annexation.
The proposed subdivision included in the annexation request features 103 single-family units on approximately 43.85 acres on Peachblow Road, just east of the Winterbrook Place subdivision and just south of the existing Glenross community. The land currently resides in Berlin Township.
Much of the hang-up regarding the annexation had centered around which New Community Authority (NCA) the Evans Farm development would serve if brought into the city. The 44 acres of land in question is located within the city’s utility service area, meaning the city is responsible for servicing the land. Council had previously approved a resolution of services for the proposed development last September.
As such, the expectation from the city was for Evans Farm to fall into the existing Delaware South NCA, which carries a rate of 7.5 mills. However, Evans Farm has its own previously established NCA at a rate of 10 mills, and the Evans family has remained steadfast in keeping the NCA consistent throughout the entirety of the development, including the proposed Delaware expansion.
As a potential resolution, the two sides had negotiated payment from the developers based on the projected revenues that would be generated by the Delaware South NCA. The proposal assumed a 2% inflation rate, a home market value of $400,000, and a rate of completion of 10 homes in 2021 and 25 homes annually in 2022 through 2024. Calculated at 7 mills, the total proposed payment by the developers was $194,360.
However, the city’s counter-proposal included changes to the terms of the payment, including keeping the millage rate at its current rate of 7.5. The city’s suggested payment from the Evans Farm group was significantly larger at $403,389. The developer countered with a figure of $250,000, which was what was included in the final proposal voted down Monday.
City Manager Tom Homan said that despite the issues with the NCAs, the city should still consider annexing the land into Delaware because of the utility service area and the city’s agreement with the county.
“Even given the NCA issue and the complications of that, I still think that it is warranted to accept this annexation because of the planning that we have done that kind of tries to, as best we can, adhere to our comprehensive plan,” Homan said. “And the comprehensive plan, in part, is driven by the utility service boundary areas.”
Homan said if council doesn’t accept the annexation, “The agreement that we have with the county says that we have to work something out” in regards to who provides those services to the 44 acres. Homan said that either the county would then have to provide those services or the city would still do so despite the land not having been added to Delaware.
Homan went on to say that if the bigger and underlying question surrounding the Evans Farm annexation is the ultimate cost of annexation and growth in the city, those discussions should be had not on the Evans Farm proposal but in the large areas that have yet to be developed. In particular, Homan cited the thousands of acres north of Berlin Station Road that will likely be developed in the future.
“That’s a far more consequential policy discussion for city council to have, as opposed to the 43 acres of (Evans Farm) property,” Homan said, adding that the land would be an “anomaly” if it remains outside of the city’s boundaries.
Hellinger asked council, “Why do we want to subsidize a developer? Why don’t they pay the full 7.5 (mills) to us, make us whole, and he can take it on the chin on his 10 mills … If it’s really important, (the developer) can reduce his internal NCA and make us whole.”
Citing their very own NCA guidelines passed last fall, Keller questioned why anyone on council would be okay with the 10 mills already established in Evans Farm being permitted within the city.
“We established guidelines and those guidelines said that the city will not approve developer-initiated NCAs in areas where the city NCA is contemplated,” Keller said. “Unless that NCA addresses the city’s infrastructure needs, which (the Evans Farm NCA) doesn’t.
“We also said that the city prefers NCA millage to be 5 mills or less. If a millage above this is proposed, extraordinary circumstances and supporting reasoning shall be documented … If there is extraordinary circumstances, the city may approve millage up to 7.5 mills. So, this (proposal) is way over those guidelines.”
Keller went on to say, “We just passed these (guidelines) in October of 2019 … Why did we do this if we, philosophically, don’t want citizens in our city to be paying millage above 7.5? It’s not meeting any of the established guidelines that we have.”
Keller added that she felt NCAs shouldn’t be negotiable. Rather, she said the city should have its set rates and if developers want to come into the city, they should have to pay those rates. Negotiating and changing those rates would be difficult to justify to other residents already in the city and would set a bad precedent moving forward with developers in the future, Keller said.
Following the vote, City Attorney Darren Shulman said the vote does not preclude the Evans Farm team from refiling for annexation and beginning the process again with the city.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.