County hosts annexation discussion with Jackson and Fruitland
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
The Cape Girardeau County Commission held a public meeting Monday to hear the opinions of the Jackson city government and county residents on the annexation of several areas north of Jackson.
Commissioner Jay Purcell invited city officials by email to "an honest public discussion" after talking with frustrated Fruitland residents Friday.
About 40 people on both sides of the issue attended, and several Fruitland residents spoke first. By the end of the meeting, tentative plans were made for future conversations between the quarry operators and community members to address concerns.
There has been a series of annexation requests by residents and landowners in Fruitland. In December, a group of Fruitland community members decided to pursue incorporation as an independent village. An area must first apply for annexation to any city within two miles and be denied. Cape Girardeau declined, but Jackson has not made a formal response. The group also submitted a petition for incorporation to Cape Girardeau County in August.
Jackson had up to one year to reject the petition for annexation, allowing them to incorporate, or accept the petition under "involuntary annexation" guidelines. The city must present a plan of intent for how services would be brought to the area and place the issue on the ballot within three years.
The city has received four additional annexation requests by quarry and landowners who desire to become part of Jackson and have their land zoned for heavy industry. Jackson has been acting expediently on those voluntary requests, including planning and zoning approval of heavy industrial zoning for those areas, pending annexation.
Mayor Barbara Lohr has said the process of "friendly" annexations are much simpler. Jackson is not required to bring services to the area and agreements are made in cooperation with landowners.
Tim Sutterer, who is against annexation, stood and reviewed his perspective of efforts over the last year to incorporate Fruitland. He thinks Jackson is acting in the interest of business owners over the interest of the people in the area and expressed confusion about possible benefits to the city. Sutterer requested the county act on their petition to incorporate, ahead of any action by Jackson.
Mark Berry questioned how Jackson would provide services and challenged whether the area qualified for annexation based on the distance from the bulk of Jackson to Fruitland since only a narrow strip of land connects the two areas. Barry said he knew the quarries are "here to stay" and that he did not want to interrupt their operations.
"I just expect them to be very good neighbors," Berry said.
Purcell clarified the intent of the discussion was to "get some public dialogue to move forward" and asked for input by the city officials in attendance -- city manager Jim Roach, Lohr and Alderwoman Wanda Young.
"We did not solicit any annexations. They came to us," said Roach in response to previous comments.
He emphasized that Jackson has been following guidelines that give the city a year to respond and that "things really changed" when the voluntary petitions were received.
Abby Petzoldt asked why zoning decisions were being made without consideration for those people who will be living next to the proposed heavy industry sites should Jackson annex Fruitland.
"I won't say at this point in time if the intent is to take in the larger Fruitland area," Roach said. "It is a decision for the board of aldermen."
The preliminary draft of the plan of intent is public record. In a version received by the Southeast Missourian on Thursday, it states, "The Board of Aldermen of the City of Jackson, Missouri, has expressed intent to annex the area generally defined above," referring to a description of the Fruitland parcel.
"We can make this multiuse area work, we are convinced of that," Roach said.
William J. Penrod, who desires annexation of his land, said he believes Jackson has a lot to offer the area, including improved sewer infrastructure and lower insurance.
Brian McGovern, attorney for Strack Excavating, questioned whether Fruitland had the infrastructure and resources to meet statutes that allow independent incorporation.
Danny Dumey of the Heartland Materials quarry said there was a great deal of misinformation about quarry operations and that residents should feel they can call the quarry or the Missouri Department of Natural Resources with concerns and they will be dealt with responsibly.
Sutterer stood to thank the commission for making the conversation possible.
"I think there could have been many things avoided if people were willing to talk to each other," he said.
Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy said after the meeting, which lasted just longer than an hour, that any action the county took on the incorporation petition before giving Jackson a full year would be overturned in court.
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