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Two cities may look to annex same areas

Ten years ago it would have been thought unlikely that both Farmington and Park Hills would be looking at annexing the same areas but within the last four months the two cities have adopted plans that suggest just that situation.

In November, the city of Farmington unveiled the 2003 version of its comprehensive plan that includes goals and objectives. One section deals with annexation and a map that is one of the plan’s exhibits shows the city looking at possible expansion as far north as the St. Francois County Fairgrounds along both sides of U.S. 67.

A comprehensive plan is a tool municipal governments use to guide them in future development. It addresses not just annexation, but also infrastructure needs, zoning, and other city functions. The latest plan shows virtually all areas around Farmington are possible targets of future annexation, but they are divided into three categories.

There are areas for which annexation might be sought within the next five years, other areas more likely to be considered within 10 years and the remainder not likely to be annexed in less than 10 years.

The area to the northwest, toward the fairgrounds, is included in the properties that would probably be considered within the next one to five years.

In a special meeting Dec. 30, the Park Hills City Council adopted a plan of intent for annexation that includes properties along both sides of U.S. 67 all the way south to Hunt Road. It conducted a public hearing on the annexation plan Thursday night and Mayor John Clark has indicated the city will probably move quickly to carry out the plan.

A plan of intent is the first step in the process of involuntary annexation, a procedure where the city seeks to expand its boundaries without the consent of the affected property owners. One purpose of such a plan is to legally block other municipalities from initiating annexation of land covered by the plan.

Even with the Park Hills plan of intent in place, two or more properties covered by the plan might still wind up in the Farmington city limits. The owners of those properties have indicated they will seek voluntary annexation to Farmington before they will allow their property to be taken in by Park Hills.

The Eagle Lake Golf Course was annexed into Farmington several years ago and thus provides the necessary contiguous boundary for other properties that might be annexed in the area. Two property owners pointed out Farmington has the utilities right there within about 100 feet to provide service while Park Hills would have to extend lines a much longer distance at a far greater cost.

Farmington has not adopted an official plan of intent to annex that area north of Hunt Road. Its comprehensive plan is simply an informal plan suggesting what the city is looking at doing in the future.

Earlier this month the fairgrounds, a property included in the plans of both cities, was taken into the Park Hills through a friendly annexation. That annexation, which actually involved two parcels of property, was requested by the Fair Board.

Greg Beavers, Farmington city administrator, said the officials of that city have had some discussion about annexation to the north, but has taken no formal action beyond adoption of the comprehensive plan. He said the city is constantly looking at what it needs in the way of future development. There are areas to the south, east and west that are also under consideration for different reasons.

Beavers and Public Works Director Jeff Blue attended the public hearing in Park Hills last week. The city administrator said they listened to the presentation given by Clark and Norman Lucas, assistant city administrator for Park Hills, and looked at the exhibits. The two Farmington officials did not participate in the public discussion of the plan.

The city not quite in the middle, but almost, is Leadington. It has recently carried out a major annexation along Flat River Road, which will become the east outer road for U.S. 67 when the fairgrounds interchange is constructed.

Park Hills and Leadington resolved earlier conflicts over expansion about two years ago through a legal settlement. The latest annexation plan for Park Hills was presented to Mayor Larry Kennon, officials said, and he expressed no opposition.

Much of the area included in the Park Hills plan again surrounds Leadington on the south and east, blocking further growth in those directions for Leadington. It also includes at least four businesses that are virtually within a stone’s throw to the current Leadington city limits.

Under state law, there has to be a 15-day comment period on an annexation plan that begins on the day of the public hearing. Once that comment period has concluded, Park Hills can proceed with the annexation process and that could begin with the next council session. There has been no official notification yet that it will be on the agenda for the March council meeting.

The process for involuntary annexation calls for both an election and a declaratory judgment through the Circuit Court.

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