Why I Support Annexation

This post is in response to a thoughtful comment from Scott Starkey. He asked for proponents of annexation to give the positive reasons of why this will help the Town of Dayton. I am Dave Leininger, and here are my reasons.

Infrastructure costs, owning our future, and economic development are three reasons that drive my interest in this initial annexation. 

Like you, I have been a long-time resident of Dayton. My wife and I decided that this home would likely be our home for life. We raised our two kids here. They enjoyed the schools. They loved to walk to "the brown store" for candies or sundries. The brown store is now the Town Hall. Who doesn't pine for those days, the simpler days, the days of our youth or our children's youth? Only through TV, movies, and music can we return to yesteryear, though we can still embrace our small town living.

We moved here from West Lafayette, where we had lived for just a few years after moving up here from Indianapolis. Since the mid-90s, I have worked in Indianapolis. I no longer drive there daily. Modern technology allows me to work from an office in my home more often than not. 

It's not just a house, it is home. We live in a beautiful neighborhood. I have often praised Ron Koehler to his face and to others for his enrichment of Shady Lane. The landscaping on his property is what you would expect from one who lives and breathes the world of flora, fauna, gardens, and nursery. We have benefited from his work on his personal property. The entrance from Dayton Road is a postcard of color for a few weeks each fall. Of course, we aren't all in that industry. Others prepare our food, ensure our packages arrive when and where expected, build and sell homes, manage organizational finances, and prevent fraud through data operations. We all live on Shady Lane. Can you imagine the breadth of services and wealth of knowledge among our townspeople in all of the other neighborhoods? So, what does that have to do with the trio of values that growth brings to Dayton? Let's start with infrastructure.

Infrastructure costs
For those of us here before the water and wastewater utilities were developed, those small-town memories of yesteryear also had wells that were drying up, orange or brownish water in sinks, showers, and toilets, and full septic fields around town. There were stately homes, homes of "good stock" and ramshackle places that would be right at home in what most would consider dying towns. 

The town council at that time made a key decision to provide water and wastewater services. An agreement with the Lafayette Waterworks was formed to provide services. If you remember the days of Lafayette Mayor Riehle, you might imagine a few beers and a smoke-filled room were involved. Out of those meetings, ordinances requiring each residence to use the new utility system were written. We still have outside water faucets drawing from our well, though that system is not permitted to provide water inside the house. Many had the same circumstance. It led to discussions, disagreements, and more than one angry person stating, "My water is fine. My septic system is not full. Why are your forcing me to use utilities that I don't need?"

The answer is infrastructure costs. It was prohibitively expensive to dig and place the lines. Some lines are very deep - 10 feet or more, I believe. Do you remember the year or two of digging, digging, digging all over town? The mud in the streets after a rainstorm? We never would have gotten the utilities, and we would likely have seen many more homes become ramshackle houses, if the shared cost of the infrastructure was not made mandatory. We certainly would not have had the water and wastewater were it not for the development of Deerfield. The 180 houses on 50-some acres, added to the 350 existing houses in Dayton, made the infrastructure costs affordable. Yes, I know. "The water is too darn expensive." The cost of living in a small town with these amenities is preferable to being just a bit more remote and not having town-wide fresh water and wastewater processing. A treatment plant is unaffordable for populations under tens of thousands. Our proximity to Lafayette for commerce, worklife, and entertainment also saved the town.

That was decades ago. The costs for infrastructure are rising. Lafayette WaterWorks must comply with ever-more regulations. The treatment plant has maintenance costs that dwarf the price of houses up and down any street in any neighborhood in Dayton. The cost of providing attachment to the utilities for the neighborhood south of town is minimal. All 110 houses will need to tap into the system and pay the same minimum fees that all of us do today. While Lafayette assesses fees based on usage, they also assess increases in fees that, when spread among more properties, maintains or even allows a minor reduction in utility fees beyond the usage fees. The annexation of the 53 acres will provide shared infrastructure maintenance and personnel costs. Pumps are expensive. Many are getting old. Pumps do not run flawlessly for decades. Like your car, they need to be replaced. Like your car, they are getting more efficient, and more expensive. If we spread the cost of a new pump near your house across all residences, including the new ones, your portion of the maintenance and personnel will obviously be less.

Owning our future
Looking at the maps, it is clear that the Unified Zoning Ordinance from the county Area Plan Commission has designated growth plans for all areas of the county, including ours. Vickie and I grew up in Indianapolis. It used to be called Naptown. It woke up when the mayor and others decided to focus on sports, and decided to extend the city limits to the county limits. Mayor Roswarski hasn't mentioned such a plan, and there isn't a near term need for such an action, though without having land within our bounds, anything can happen. Land can be rezoned. It happens all of the time. Land in Dayton has been rezoned. Sometimes, it fosters new business. Sometimes, it forces a business to flee the area. 

If we don't annex the land to the south, at least to CR375S, there is a real possibility that land could be rezoned from agriculture to something other than R1, the designation for low density, single family housing. Annexing the 53 acres now will result in 110 houses being built over the next several years. These are homes that will be sold for $275,000 to $400,000. Nice homes. Big lots, but not so overwhelmingly big that the homeowners need to spend dozens of hours maintaining their yards. Some people love that activity. Most do not. 

Everyone knows that the land on the west side of Dayton Road will become highly desirable for development in five or ten years. Do we want warehouses? Office space? Winding streets of brownstone walkups? Maybe a few high end apartments like are seen at Anson and Zionsville? A bunch of Victorian style "painted ladies?" Let's own our future. Let's find the common areas of planned development, measured growth, and growth that fits the small-town nature that we have come to know. We really don't have a town square. We don't have a block of storefronts with apartments above, as you see in other small towns. Maybe - just maybe - Dayton South can provide this level of quaintness that has been the hallmark of planned growth in so many communities. Think West Clay, for instance.

This much is true: If we don't plan our growth, suggestions can be considered from anyone. Let's own our future. 

Economic development
Have you read the APC long-term plans for the land at the northeast section of the interstate and 38? MacAllister Machinery has been an excellent commercial enterprise for Dayton. They pay taxes. They use a lot of water. They employ a lot of technicians. Yes, the berm and backup beepers and unmet promises are hot topics, rightly so, to a few dozen residents in Deerfield. 

So, let's get public/private partnership ideas in discussion. The plans as currently stated show the stub of the current street being extended to Hagerty Lane/CR200S. The plans also suggest office buildings at the western edge, next to the interstate. Lafayette doesn't really have any Class A office space in this side of the county. "We don't want office space. We are a quaint small town." Yes, we love our small town. Yes, we need economic development to pay for enhancement to Dayton in 10 and 20 years. By 2030, we will need funds to realize the future we define in Dayton South. Funds to pay for the free town trolley that runs to the shops. Funds to pay for period streetlighting throughout the town. Funds to pay for the maintenance of a park and trails. 

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Our economic development future is either one of "we get what we get" or "people shared a vision." I vote for a future where we have a result that maintains our small-town appeal. 

Dave Leininger3 Comments