The annexation in Siloam Springs

[See election results on this issue in this post.]

I have not had an opportunity to blog that much recently and I apologize to all who regularly read this blog. In this present political season, I feel that I should perhaps respond in some fashion to all of the negative campaigning that is currently happening in my community regarding an annexation measure. First off, the City would not be asking for this annexation if it was not in the best interest for the long-term growth and health of the community. What upsets me is all of the misinformation that seems to be spread around these days. Contrary to all of the lovely yellow signs we are seeing all over town, the annexation will NOT increase taxes of citizens that live inside the City limits.  Apparently, there was some confusion on this point in the local media. Taxes will increase slightly for those being annexed. But consider this: those being annexed would be also receiving services that they would not have otherwise, such as street lighting, sanitation, local street maintenance, to name a few. In addition, an extra-municipal utility surcharge would be waived if they are already on City services.

I know change can be difficult and even frightening. But change and growth is part of life.  Nothing can stay the same forever. If the City decides to simply freeze its boundaries, consider the fact that there would be absolutely no control over land use in the areas that surround Siloam Springs. Anyone can build just about anything without any consideration of infrastructure needs, land use balances, or the general livability of the community. That is what happens in areas that have no zoning controls whatsoever. Siloam Springs has a sizable planning area that encompasses areas outside of the City limits. The 2030 long range plan has made efforts to actually plan for this area. Without the police powers of zoning, the plan is effectively worthless when it comes to land use control. I don’t mean to sound fatalistic, but it concerns me that a small group of misinformed people can sway the vote of the entire community with these signs, when they are not considering all the facts and consequences of their actions on the long term welfare of the community in which they liveI see that if the annexation measure fails, it would literally stunt the growth of Siloam Springs and make annexation in the future more costly to tax payers. Annexation will need to come one day; it is enviable if the population continues to grow. Why not bite the bullet and do this now? I welcome your comments and feedback.

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10 Responses to The annexation in Siloam Springs

  1. Gary Burton says:

    The local media confusion happened when original story’s author made reference to the 5.4 mil increase for new high school in Siloam Springs.

    The tax rate for those currently in the county who are annexed would go up to match those of city residents, but no additional taxes would be placed upon anyone else.

    The author wrote the story with the Gentry residents in mind and didn’t consider how the story might be misinterpreted.

  2. pNielsen says:

    Omaha, Nebraska allowed development outside of its border and paid for it later. Eventually the neighborhoods wanted into the city for the services you list, and it cost the city dearly to incorporate them. Further, it turned O-town into a sprawling nightmare, since the developers weren’t really concerned with how their little development fit or didn’t fit within the existing framework of the city.

  3. wordlily says:

    ‘Course, it would’ve cost the city much less if they’d annexed this land when it first came before the board, several years ago now.

  4. Gary Burton says:

    The good news is that as a direct result of this blog, we ran a story on the front page of today’s paper trying to explain the situation in detail…

    Maybe it will stop some of the rumors about a direct tax hike for city residents if the annexation passes…

  5. pNielsen says:

    We at The Aesthetic Elevator are humbled to have made a difference in our community 😉

  6. H. Emerick says:

    Thanks for the info. We weren’t sure about the pros/cons of the annexation, you helped clarify.

  7. Pingback: Siloam annexation fails, other election tidbits « The Aesthetic Elevator

  8. A. Fields says:

    The purpose of a city is to provide a structure through which the citizens within that city can cumulatively receive services. The city is there to serve the citizens… not to serve itself. When a city, any city, decides to begin acting as an entity separate and apart from the citizenry, and making decisions that serve the “city” rather than the citizens, then that city has forgotten why it is in existence in the first place.

    Annexation should always begin with a request from the people of the area that seeks annexation, not from a nearby city seeking to enlarge itself (for whatever reason). The very fact that you feel that a city should have any control over adjacent land demonstrates that you also have forgotten the place of a city. It shouldn’t “police” the area around it. If those areas had sought to be under the control of the nearby city, then they would have organized and then requested annexation consideration.

    As for taxes… unless money is likely to fall out of the sky, then annexation would have increased taxes for all citizens of the expanding city. This is because a large number of the people in the proposed annexation area are senior citizens over age 65. By law they can not have their property taxes increased. So, if they can’t pay for the infrastructure and city services that would be imposed on them, who will? That money has to come from somewhere.

    Also, the point of a city is to spread the cost of infrastructure across the entire city population thereby making the cost of construction or improvement of infrastructure and the cost of city services affordable to all citizens. You can’t annex someone and then tell them to pay you for the road you decided to pave or the water line you decided to put in. If a city chooses to do that work then the cost of it is spread across everyone.

    It seems that the one misinformed is you. And it is a basic misunderstanding of the democratic process and the function of incorporated communities that you demonstrate. Take some time to visit the library and see what this country was built on. Then perhaps you will understand that the underlying incentive to annex this area was flawed in conception from the outset.

    Siloam Springs, as a city administration, needs money. The city leaders saw an opportunity to increase the tax base (revenue) without going to the existing citizens. They saw it as a win-win. The city administration continues being paid as they have been, city services remain at current levels, and the existing citizens don’t pay more in taxes to make those things happen. The only problem was that the people in the area to be annexed didn’t just roll over and let the incorporated city next door come in and take over. They fought it. They fought to protect a rural way of life that they chose and love. And they won.

  9. pNielsen says:

    @ Fields:

    You seem to be missing some ideas and components related to the idea of a community. Further, you’ve failed to cite some sources that would be helpful in legitimizing your arguments, and you’ve flat out got it wrong that city services remain constant. Utility rates have gone up even in the five short years that I’ve lived in our beloved Siloam. It’s pretty much a given in life; taxes and utilities will go up.

    I will agree that a city is incorporated to serve its citizens and not itself. However, what that service entails is a broad and complicated thing that will be different for every community. Some cities grow organically (read, chaotically). Some are planned from the get-go (see midwestern railroad towns). The history and geography of a community play into these kind of decisions, as does the unforeseen future of a region.

    Planning is a service to citizens. Without it you end up with a chaotic and ugly menagerie with no direction.

    If the people in the outlying rural areas north of Siloam don’t want annexation, fine. That was not what was being discussed in the post above however. Further, just because that area is annexed does not mean that these estates will suddenly be thrown into urbanization. If the city is, as you state (which I don’t necessarily believe, especially since the article we’re commenting on was written by the city planner whose integrity I’ll personally vouch for) just after money and without funds to expand infrastructure, they won’t have cash lying around to suddenly pave over your paradise anyway.

    And I don’t believe that’s their intent. At all.

    Also, the newly annexed residents would have say in city government and would be able to lobby to keep their countryside countryside. Will that always work? No. No one ever gets everything they want (Excepting, perhaps, Bill Gates.). But, again, the city’s intent was not annex the proposed land in order to develop it.

    What this country was founded on has little to do with city planning theory. Nonetheless, planning is a very democratic process when done well, involving all of the people who desire to participate in the decision making.

    Your comments give the impression you’re trying to justify a personal agenda. I don’t have a problem with that necessarily, but you must understand that your personal agenda (or even the corporate agenda of a number of people inside the proposed annexation area) won’t necessarily jive with others’ ideas which are also for good. Much as I’m a bit of a conspiracy theorist, and much as I’m skeptical of politicians, I know Ben Rhoads. He’s transparent, and if the accusations you’re throwing out in the comment above were actually the case I believe he would have told us so already.

  10. brhoads says:

    I am very surprised and pleased at how engaged the citizenry of Siloam Springs is on this issue of annexation. I was not going to comment on this discussion mainly because I tend to not like being in the spotlight given my position, but as I have been asked to comment on these issues, I will go ahead and do so. After all, I did post the original message on the annexation issue. I would also like to say for the record that whatever I say in this response is solely my own opinion and does NOT necessarily represent the official position of the City of Siloam Springs. My reticence in joining into the dialog has been that my opinion may be misconstrued as an official one and I want to make it clear right off the bat that this message is merely my own views in the capacity of my own experiences and not in my capacity as City Planner.

    First off, this annexation was never my idea; however I have supported it from the start. The truth be told, this annexation process had been going on internally in city hall for years. When I started working for the city back in 2003, I was instructed to look into annexation and come up with an annexation plan. Since that time, I had been working on creating a cost benefit analysis for the annexation in which I looked at the costs to the City and the overall revenue the City would receive as a result of taking in different areas.

    The analytical model’s results all indicated that the annexation would cost the City much more in the short term and it would take as much as twenty years in some cases to recoup the costs expended. This is not surprising considering the levels of service the City would need to maintain in the new areas. Obviously, the current revenue streams (taxes and utility rates) would not be sufficient to cover all the costs for this measure. My official recommendation to the Board of Directors was to perhaps break the annexation into smaller manageable pieces in order to keep costs low and to grow more in an organized incremental fashion through a series of special elections.

    This recommendation was taken to the City leadership and to the Planning Commission and the rational, at the time, was that if the City was going to do annexation, the City might as well get the areas in at one time, rather than breaking the areas into several different elections. All the areas to the south were added with this line of thinking, that if the City was going to present a major annexation, the City might as well select all the areas strategic for City growth. This process was never a money grabbing scheme and my report certainly indicated that. In fact it was considered now in order to save tax payers money! If the City annexes undeveloped land, the costs are relatively low. However, if the City was to wait and annex once the area develops, it is much more expensive. This is because the City must buy out customers off of Carroll Electric. The Villa View annexation was costly to the City for this very reason; every house there had to be bought out from Carroll.

    In addition, City officials wanted to plan for the future and ensure that the Dawn Hill area (including City Lake) was annexed into the community. The City owns the land at City Lake, so this was a logical and reasonable position. In addition, I believe many of the individuals in the Dawn Hill area have been asking to be annexed into the City for years, so this was fulfilling their wish as well.

    The City had a public meeting on annexation in July and the majority of the comments were from those opposed to the measure. This was expected and understandable. City did try to address their concerns to ease the transition. This is especially true in terms of existing land use. The City never intended to rezone anyone’s land so as to prevent them from farming, etc. Annexation, as I have said before, is a planning tool. When or if these farms, etc., do get developed, we would like to have zoning in place so these areas can be planned well and to prevent sprawling developments without suitable land use mixes.

    I know people don’t like to see farms developed, but consider this. Does anyone go to the High School football games? What about to JBU? If it was not for some fore thinking citizens and government officials in 1952, these areas would not be in Siloam Springs! There was a major annexation then that took in virtually everything west of Dogwood. Yes, there were once farms out there too and in time they went away and the area developed. As long as migration and births continues, this land use transition from rural to urban will continue. I know in the long run the City will have to stop growing, but that is an argument for another post and day.

    So today’s electorate came out in droves to vote against it. I personally am not surprised at the outcome given all of the negativity that had happened. The opposition groups became organized and they succeeded at their goal of preventing the City’s long term growth and preserving the rural life at the fringe of the community. I know if it had passed, there would have been adjustments made by the City and the citizens to accommodate the growth, but it could have worked. I know that those affected are happy to not be annexed, and that is their right and that is why this is a democratic process. I only hope that in the future the City can present a better case as to why annexation is important so that everyone can agree it is needed for sound and manageable growth for the community, just like what has happened by those who were there before us who scarified to lay the ground work for the community we presently enjoy.

    Ben Rhoads, AICP

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