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Fruitland's future lies with Cape Girardeau County Commission
With Jackson residents voting down the annexation of a Fruitland quarry last week, Fruitland's quest to become a village lies in the hands of the Cape Girardeau County Commission.
The annexation's rejection is a step in the process, said Tim Sutterer, speaking for an ad hoc group of Fruitland residents seeking incorporation.
In August, the county received a petition asking that an area of Fruitland bound by U.S. 61, Interstate 55, Highway 177 and routes Y, W and FF be allowed to incorporate as a village. The petition had 79 percent of Fruitland residents' signatures, Sutterer said.
Last month, Sutterer and other residents approached the commission and were told that nothing could be done until the Feb. 7 election was decided and a lawsuit filed in November was settled.
After questions about annexation were addressed through last week's election, Fruitland's fate is up to the commission, Sutterer said.
"The county commission is in the process of evaluating our incorporation," Sutterer said. "Nothing else needs to be done on our behalf. We have submitted all the documentation."
Fruitland's incorporation has yet to come up in county commission meetings following the election, Commissioner Jay Purcell said. The commission may discuss the proposal in the coming weeks, but Purcell suggested proponents get the issue on the agenda. Residents can get issues on the agenda by calling County Clerk Kara Clark Summers, Purcell said.
"It allows them to ask direct questions and ask for other input," Purcell said. "It would promote more dialogue."
Purcell said he did not know if the issue had been placed on the agenda yet.
As part of incorporation, Fruitland was required to approach cities within two miles, apply for annexation and be declined. Cape Girardeau and Jackson both had a year to respond. Cape Girardeau declined in March, telling petitioners that the area did not meet required annexation guidelines. Jackson responded in November with a motion to annex only areas that wanted to voluntarily join the city, namely the Heartland Materials quarry.
On Tuesday, 843 Jackson residents voted against annexation, shooting down the proposal with 56 percent of the vote.
In November, eight people filed a lawsuit that claimed Jackson had illegally annexed a portion of land along Interstate 55 and U.S. 61 in 2009. On Feb. 2, the same filers submitted a lawsuit that alleged the same illegal annexation, but this time had the blessing of Attorney General Chris Koster. Koster gave the filers the status of "quo warranto," which means they were essentially acting on the state's behalf.
The Feb. 2 lawsuit superseded the November suit, said John Cook, the lawyer who filed the most recent lawsuit. After the annexation's defeat Feb. 7, Cook said that as long as Jackson does not try to proceed with any more annexation, he, along with the eight other petitioners, would not sue the city.
Jackson Mayor Barbara Lohr said Feb. 7 that the city would no longer pursue annexation.
"I think this lets us know the citizens of Jackson do not want us to expand," Lohr said of the proposition losing Feb. 7.
Having the issue on a meeting's agenda would be beneficial to the commission and Fruitland incorporation's supporters.
Sutterer said Fruitland needs to incorporate because of its rapid growth. As a village, Fruitland would be able to institute ordinances but would not have to provide all the services a city would, Sutterer said.
"We see the growth here in Fruitland and residents would like some ability to manage growth in a way that benefits the community," Sutterer said. Without incorporation, there's no regulation or control over how the area grows."