Warsaw’s annexation plan for Industrial Park set in motion

After six public meetings, plans for an involuntary annexation of the Airport Industrial Park that includes the old Biomet headquarters along U.S. 30 are moving forward.

The initial proposal by the city of Warsaw was whittled down from nearly 500 acres to 409 acres after roughly a dozen property owners asked to be excluded.

On Tuesday, City Council set in motion an annexation plan considered for years by the city that will likely spur growth in the industrial park.

In return, the city is planning to extend sewer service to the park and possibly beyond the park at a later time.

While the city has been involved in numerous small voluntary annexations in recent years, the industrial park proposal is the first “forced” annexation in about 20 years, according to City Planner Jeremy Skinner.

Even though some property owners opted out, the potential for a formal remonstrance – or opposition – to the plan still exists. Skinner said Tuesday approval is not a sure thing.

He said he’s aware of several properties in the middle of the district that expressed opposition, but is unsure how much opposition might arise.

“It’s hard to say. There were probably three or four people that did not want to be annexed in,” Skinner said.

On Tuesday, council heard a recap of the revised plan and approved a fiscal plan that outlines how much the city will benefit from the annexation and how much the city plans to invest in the area.

The property is located south of the airport and mostly north of U.S. 30. Biomet paid for and has maintained a sanitary lift station in the area for years. It continues to maintain the infrastructure even after the company merged with Zimmer.

Skinner estimates there are 150 acres that are undeveloped.

Extension of sewer is expected to prompt some growth in the park.

“I already know that there are some businesses that want to expand or are in the process of expanding,” Skinner said.

“I would say there will probably be some noticeable changes once the sanitary sewer system goes in,” he said.

The property is a mix of industrial, commercial and agriculture zoned land established by Kosciusko County.

If annexed, the zonings will remain the same, except for the agricultural designation. The city does not have an ag classification and those tracts will be zoned industrial, Skinner said.

City officials hope to complete annexation this year and are already making plans to begin sewer expansion so that construction can begin in 2019.If approved, annexation is scheduled to be finalized by October. The first city taxes for those property owners would be payable in 2020. To encourage inclusion, the city is offering to property owners a three-year phased-in tax abatement.

Public hearings on the annexation are tentatively set for March, and a final vote could be cast in May, according to information provided by the city.

In exchange, the city plans to spend about $6.7 million to extend sewer with another $1.1 million on storm water utilities and $4.9 million in street improvements within the area. The city intends to cover those expenses by expanding two nearby tax increment finance districts that will be expanded to cover the park.

In other matters, council elected Diane Quance to serve as council president, replacing Michael Klondaris. It marks Quance’s second stint as president.

Council also reviewed plans to update its silt and erosion ordinance.

The city’s existing policy for construction projects involving an acre or more of land has not been updated in about 13 years. The current policy only includes  two steps in the oversight process, a notification and a series of extreme measures such as a ticket, stop order, revocation of a work permit and fine.

The proposed changes would allow for a series of notifications before actions are sought. Those include a verbal warning, a phone call, email, notice of noncompliance, notice of violation, fines and a stop order.

It also includes an appeal process.

The city sought input from contractors as it considered changes, according to Ryan Workman, the city’s MS4 stormwater coordinator.

To learn more, call Workman at 574-372-9562.