Sugar Creek’s proposal to annex 2,700 acres northeast of the city is not sitting well with some people who live there.
Or with affected property owners who live elsewhere.
“We have been farming the Little Blue Valley for 100 years and to have some municipality just sort of come in with no prior notice, it’s a little disturbing,” said Frank Barnes, one of several family members who own parts of a 400-acre area that would be annexed.
He also wonders why the map of the proposed annexation area seems to exclude residential areas, meaning that people who may own targeted property nearby would not be able to vote on the matter April 8.
“It is very clear that the lines of annexation have avoided the populated areas,” said Barnes, who now lives in Utah.
The annexation area does exclude a small group of houses in the middle and only 16 people live on the land, said City Administrator Ron Martinovich. The reason for the hole, he said, is that Sugar Creek planners once thought that land was incorporated and planned around it.
“We just excluded that area,” he said.
To make the land part of the city, the proposal must be approved by both voters within the annexation area and those who already live in Sugar Creek.
The annexation was a late addition to the April ballot. A court order allowed Sugar Creek to put the matter on the ballot after the normal cutoff date.
Last Wednesday, nearly 30 people — far more than the number of affected residents eligible to vote on the subject, crowded into a City Hall meeting room to hear officials explain their plans for the annexation.
None of those attending spoke clearly in favor of the annexation. Some were undecided, while others pronounced themselves against the move.
Several people complained that they had not received formal notice, and heard about the proposal only last week through personal contact.
While property taxes would go down if the land joins Sugar Creek, some other fees would go up.
Several attendees expressed concern that firefighters would be farther away if the annexation passes. The Fort Osage Fire Protection District, which now provides fire and ambulance service to the area, has a firehouse about 1.5 miles south.
Sugar Creek officials said they had had discussions with their Fort Osage counterparts about an agreement to have Fort Osage continue serving the area, but nothing had been firmed up.
“I don’t think they are bringing anything to the table,” said Brian Mundy, who lives and farms cattle and crops in the area.
And yet he was withholding judgment, he said, while he seeks more information about what annexation would mean for him and his wife.
Jerry Covert’s mind, however, is made up.
“I’m against it,” Covert said. “We moved out there … to be out in the county, and I don’t need another person telling me what do in my life.”
From Utah, Frank Barnes told The Star that he is upset about the proposal on several levels. His family members, he said, are not interested in the privileges of living in Sugar Creek.
“We live in a rural environment because we choose to,” he said. “We would hate to see it become part of any municipality.
“Sugar Creek is offering undefined advantages. We already have water, we already have fire. I’m not sure what they are offering.”
And the land itself is a “historic flood plain,” said Barnes.
While growing up in the early 1960s, he recalls seeing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers installing levees along the Missouri and Little Blue rivers.
But Barnes said the Little Blue River levees are not maintained by the Corps anymore.
“I’m not sure this land would be an advantage to the city,” he said. “It makes you wonder who is motivated to acquire this land and to what purpose.”
One reason Sugar Creek is interested in the property, Martinovich said, is that the proposed Lewis and Clark Expressway is slated to go through some of the annexation area.
Another reason, he added, is “the city doesn’t want to be landlocked on its eastern border. The only opportunity to grow our corporate limits is on the east.”
In 2006, he said, Sugar Creek, along with many eastern Jackson County cities, participated in a strategic planning process with Jackson County officials. Each city, he said, was asked to develop an “urban service area” or district where future annexation was reasonable.
“Jackson County thought it was reasonable,” Martinovich said of the Sugar Creek area.
City officials did meet with Little Blue Valley Sewer District officials, who encouraged Sugar Creek to go a little farther east with the proposed annexation, Martinovich said.
City Attorney Bob Buckley said no one should be shocked by Sugar Creek’s annexation plans. The city’s long-range plan goes back to the 1990s, and several properties have become part of the city voluntarily.
Some railroad track areas have been annexed, and so has some Missouri Department of Conservation property.
“We long have been on a path expanding our boundaries to the east,” Buckley said. “This should not be a surprise to anybody.”
Meanwhile, some Sugar Creek area residents told the Board of Aldermen last week that they were upset about seeing Sugar Creek fees on their utility bills. They alleged their properties had been annexed into Sugar Creek without their knowledge.
Last November, the city did absorb some “islands” of property.
A law, passed in the last session of the Missouri General Assembly, enables Sugar Creek, in limited circumstances, to annex such “islands,” Buckley said.
The law affects about about 10 parcels, he added.