Residents decry Fortville's big annexation plans as land grab

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Property owners in a largely agricultural area southeast of Geist Reservoir are vowing to fight involuntary annexation by the town of Fortville, calling the plan a blatant land grab.

Fortville is seeking to annex almost 6,000 acres to the west, tripling the size of the Hancock County town and adding $53.5 million to its property tax base.

Fortville annexation mapTown officials did not respond to inquiries from IBJ, but a summary of Fortville’s fiscal plan for providing services to the targeted territory described the annexation as “a means for providing for the orderly and planned growth of the municipality.”

Opponents see the proposal as a desperate effort to capture additional tax revenue for the town, which has seen income drop as the result of statewide property tax caps. But adding 9 square miles of territory—and the associated services—doesn’t make sense if Fortville is having trouble making ends meet now, they say.

“Annexation is expensive,” said opposition leader Florence May, who lives in the targeted area despite her McCordsville mailing address. “We think it’s a pretty major stretch.”

The area targeted for annexation has 240 homes and businesses—mostly farms—and an estimated population of 600, according to the town’s fiscal plan summary.

Landowners began mobilizing in late March, when they learned about the proposal via certified letter notifying them of a May 29 public hearing.

About a week later, the first meeting of a group now calling itself Fight Against Fortville Annexation drew more than 100 people to Gary Kingen’s farm at the southwest edge of the targeted territory, six miles from the current town limits.

Residents compiled a list of concerns about the proposal. Chief among them: the absence of a comprehensive development plan for Fortville and the annexation area, and a lack of confidence in town officials’ ability to manage such ambitious, immediate growth.

fortville annexation florence may 15colFlorence May, left, and Gary Kingen worry about the lack of long-term planning in Fortville's annexation bid. (IBJ photo/Perry Reichanadter)

“This is an annexation with no purpose or direction other than raking money into the Fortville town coffers,” May said.

Town attorney Alex Intermill told the Greenfield Daily Reporter that the annexation is a bet on land that is likely to be developed soon, given its location between Fishers and Interstate 70.

“That’s where we see the growth coming,” he said.

Indeed, Fortville’s fiscal plan—approved unanimously at a March 26 special meeting of the five-member Town Council—calls for developers to cover most of the costs of extending municipal services to the annexation area within the required three years.

The town estimates it won’t have any financial obligations for providing sanitary sewers and water service, for example, and the plan says gravel roads in the annexation area will be improved as development occurs.

Police protection is expected to cost an additional $15,000 a year.

Hancock County would continue to handle zoning duties in Fortville and the annexation area, according to the plan, and the Vernon Township Fire Department will keep providing fire and emergency medical services.

All told, Fortville expects to spend an additional $245,000 in the first year of annexation, when associated revenue is expected to increase about $420,500.

Although the tax caps would limit the impact on most property owners, May said the town’s tax levy would reduce funding for other taxing units—including the cash-strapped Mount Vernon Community School Corp.

Indeed, while the property tax caps the Legislature passed in 2008 provided relief to homeowners, they have strained public budgets that counted on that revenue. State Rep. Bob Cherry, R-Greenfield, said more communities are turning to annexation as a solution, seeking to add revenue by expanding their tax bases.

Cherry co-sponsored a Senate bill that sought to limit the scope of such growth, but it failed to pass out of the House during the most recent legislative session. An interim study committee is expected to review the annexation process this summer as a compromise.

“Usually, you have annexation where growth is occurring and people want services,” said Cherry, who does not represent Fortville but is nevertheless familiar with the plans. “In these kind of annexations, you’re getting the cart before the horse.”

The so-called “western boundary” area Fortville is seeking to annex would increase its total assessed valuation 53 percent, far exceeding the 15-percent limit proposed in the Senate measure.

Cherry said the Legislature needs to address the tax-cap issue and the impact it is having on municipal budgets.

“If I were king, I would put a moratorium on annexations until we can get back and look at fixing the tax problem,” he said. “Some communities think this is the solution, but it’s not.”

A routine State Board of Accounts audit of Fortville finances for 2009 and 2010, the most recent available, found “several deficiencies” in the town’s internal controls over financial transactions and reporting. It cited a lack of segregation of duties in the clerk-treasurer’s office and a lack of oversight by the Town Council.

The audit also noted the town spent $111,475 on police vehicles with no evidence that it solicited bids.

May said the past missteps make residents question officials’ ability to handle more.

“We don’t want to see good money go after bad money,” she said. “We want to see a plan that shows some prayer of responsible use.”

Fortville’s Town Council is scheduled to discuss the annexation proposal at its meeting next week, but May said opponents will not be allowed to speak. Still, they’re hoping to make their case before the public hearing at the end of the month.

Town leaders must wait at least 30 days after the May 29 hearing to vote on the proposed annexation. If the ordinance is approved, property owners can file a formal remonstrance with the court.

May said most residents believe annexation is inevitable, given the proximity to Indianapolis.  But they point to the more measured growth occurring in nearby McCordsville as an example of a smart strategy.   

“My hope would be that Fortville learns from this experience and can develop a well-thought-out vision,” she said. “That’s what they’re lacking. There’s not even a vision to build a plan around.”


  • Make it a TIF and Mayor Ballard can HIJACK THE TAX DOUGH FOR HIS BUDDIES!
    Maybe Mayor Marine can convert it to a TIF and syphon the tax revenue off the tax rolls and pay off his buddies Chicago style!
  • Agree (Taxes are out of control)
    I live in the downtown area of Indianapolis and my taxes went up over a $1000 on one house to $4000 annually while I paid 70K for it. Don't get me wrong its probable worth 200k max but $4000 for one house.....
  • Agree with Tom
    My last reassessment (there have been three since we bought the house in 2011), I told the assessor that if he had a BUYER for the amount he was assessing to have them come write me a check and we would move tomorrow. 15% increase in 1.5 years is NOT a cap.
    • Developers to fund municipal improvements?
      This is a rural area. Have any developers come to the Town of Fortville to display their development plans within the annexation area to support this three (3) year time horizon? Seems foolish for the municipality to count on developers to do their work for them when they are unknown entities at this juncture. What happens when the developments don't happen in this rural area?
    • Are You Surprised?
      The legislature inserted an arbitrary "cap" on the percentage of property taxes, but did not limit the frequency with which property can be reassessed. Result? Everybody's property is getting re-assessed basically every year, and lo and behold, despite a five year real-estate bear market, everybody's valuation magically rises every single year, like clockwork. Result? You get a tax increase every single year even as our leaders crow on about the "cap" they've put on our property taxes.

    Post a comment to this story

    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by

    facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
    Subscribe to IBJ
    1. Good Day I am Mr (Victoria Wright) from United state of America, i stayed in NEW YORK, and i have a broke up business, until i found this company email who help me to gain a loan for business,, and now i want to used this short medium to congratulate the below company for the fast and safe money they loan to me without any form of collateral, i loan 500,000USD from the company to save my business and lots more, i saw their mail on the internet, everyone always give testimony for what they did, so i quickly contacted them and they all did everything for me without stress and my money was sent to my account just 3 days later, i was surprise and i feel so glad, now i have a standard business control agent who help me, now i will advice those who need urgent loan to contact him at the bellow email:zenithfirm12@gmail.com

    2. NOTICE:This is to inform the general public that Vampires are real. My name is James Franklyn.,am an agent of vampire,am here to introduce our new world trend to you,a world of vampire where life get easier,we have made so many persons vampires and have turned them rich,you will be assured long life and prosperity,you shall be made to be very sensitive to mental alertness,stronger and also very fast,you will not be restricted to walking at night only even at the very middle of broad day light you will be made to walk.In case you are wildly oppressed by some unscrupulous persons we can still help you fight them.Your protection is assured immediately you join.Just contact the bellow email if you are interested we are here to attend to you anytime you want us. Contact the bellow email for more details. Email:vampirescreed@hotmail.com Sincerely: James Franklyn.

    3. Bravo! Someone else that is willing to speak the truth! Bravo!_____NBCSN is available in almost 2 MILLION more homes than just a few years ago, but Indycar STILL gets less total viewers than it did just a few years ago when NBC took over Versus. Attendance and ratings cratered with the end of season races (just when the title battle got "interesting" HAH!__________And now...new race in Basilia, where Miles celebrated the "rich history" of Indycar racing there. Rich history? What, 7 events in the 100 years of AOW? Yep, some history. Well, at least its an oval. It's not??? Are you kidding me??? Gosh darn road racin furriners.

    4. PURITY RAY LOAN OFFER........ Have you been denied by your banks,or are you in need of of an urgent loan to pay of your bills we are capable of giving loans @ cheaper rate to interested individuals, student, companies and members of the public in need of finance to settle bills, we do offer considerable loans which you can count on. For more information on our various types of loan,then you will have to contact PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM, to help you achieve your desire LOAN APPLICATION FORM TO BE FILLED BORROWERS INFORMATION * Full name:………………………. * SEX * ……………………………. * Country………………………….. * State:……………………………. * Land:…………………………….. * Occupation:…………………….. * phone number:…………………. * Telephone: ………………………….. * Age:………………………………. * Amount needed as loan:……… * Loan Duration:………………….. * Propose of Loan:……………….. * Annual revenue:………………… * Monthly Income:……………….. * Guarantee:………………………. * Payment: monthly or annually Email.....purityrayloanfirm@gmail.com Thank you and God bless Mr Purity Ray PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM we tend to serve you better

    5. Problem: most of the people responding to this article don't know about this service AT ALL! Why? Lack of awareness. This isn't IndyGo. This is CIRTA: might as well be the mattress company because they are asleep at the wheel - something like 3 directors over the last year? Playing with federal grant money is great! This "region" wants commuter rail service, has spent MILLIONS on Transportation studies yet can't even support a commuter bus line? This is largely for suburban riders to get to downtown - not for "service people to work in our hotels and restaurants" ! Get your head out of your backside!! These are professionals, students etc. that don't want to fight traffic, save some money on parking, gas, stress.... if CIRTA would put their federal money into widely promoting the sevive to Greenwood, Fishers & Carmel instead of finding directors and studies - this would be a successful service. Our family uses(d) it daily for the last several years - but the recent uncertainty & now unreliability due to cuts from Carmel has been a problem. Now, costs us an additional $350/month for gas & parking ( $4200/year) plus vehicle wear, service, environmental impact ... YES - this REGION needs this this type of service in order to keep growing and getting the people it needs to fill skilled positions in downtown Indianapolis. Think outside of your own car !!!