“Something was not right,” said Sugar Creek Mayor Matt Mallinson about the number of people attending the city’s study recent session on the proposed annexation.
Sugar Creek plans to expand its territory by 2,700 acres. Sugar Creek voters and the residents living within the planned annexation area will decide the issue on the April 8 ballot. Both elections have to pass by a simple majority in order to be considered as an involuntary annexation. The proposed tract is south of the Missouri River, north of Union School Road, west of the Little Blue River and east of the existing Sugar Creek corporate limits.
The mayor says he was surprised at the number of people who showed up at the round table discussion March 12. Of the nearly 30 people in attendance, only three actually live within the proposed annexation area, he said. “As far as we (city of Sugar Creek) know, there are only 12, maybe 14 residents that live within that area,” he said.
He also said after the study session, one of the residents, who lives under the proposed annexation area, approached him and asked, “Do you have any idea what happened?”
Mallinson was informed by the resident that maps showing the wrong boundaries were being distributed to property owners near the proposed area. Some felt the annexation was being rushed upon them. But, says Mallinson, “They weren’t notified because they live outside of the planned annex area.”
He said this annexation proposal has been in the works for 10 years with the city of Sugar Creek, and city personnel have been in contact with the 12 to 14 residents in the proposed annexation area for “quite some time.”
The city of Sugar Creek has been annexing land on their eastern border for several years, said Sugar Creek City Administrator Ron Martinovich. He says there have been voluntarily annexation of islands, or tracts of land already within the city boundaries of Sugar Creek, since 2006, with the most recent annexation occurring last November.
At the study session several people voiced concerns about services and utilities that would be provided by Sugar Creek. A downfall of the annexation, if passed, would be paying franchise fees on services provided by Sugar Creek, as one member pointed out. These include KCP&L for electricity, Missouri Gas Energy for natural gas, AT&T for telephone service and Comcast for cable television.
“But you only have to pay for it if you have the service already,” Martinovich said about the franchise fees during the study session.
Another person asked city officials to consider the implications of being under the 351 R1 and R2 Levee Districts, a federal levee system around the Missouri River created by the Army Corps of Engineers. The person pointed out that one of the districts had to be recently certified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and that it cost $500,000 paid by the landowners in the area to continue to be under the district for the next 100 years.
“The bill is all on the landowners,” the audience member said to city officials. “We are concerned about financial aid being brought to the district.” He added the levee covers 13 and a half miles along the Missouri River. “Has this been considered?” he asked Mallinson.
According to Mallinson, the annexed area would touch parts of these levee districts. Sugar Creek City Attorney Bob Buckley says the city will establish a council to investigate whether the districts are required to be financially supported by either state or local government.
A member of the audience, who said he used to be a mayor himself, said a city that extends its boundaries must extend the same services as the rest of the city within two years by law, like sewer, trash, roads, etc. But Mallinson doesn’t see that as a problem.
“They (those within the proposed annexation area) got a preview of how we listen to citizens and work together. They had the police and fire chiefs, Board of Aldermen, and officials all in the same room listening to citizens. That doesn’t happen in many towns that much.”
“It’s a very confusing area of law,” Buckley later said regarding city annexation. “You have to be careful.”
Buckley said under Section 71.015 of the Missouri Revised Statutes, a city has to develop a plan of intent to provide services to an area proposed for annexation. And a proposed time schedule by the city must be provided to the residents of the proposed area to be annexed within three years from the date the annexation is effective.
But he says what makes Sugar Creek’s proposed annexation unique is Section 71.860, which states a Missouri county of 50 or more cities, towns and villages – in this case, both Jackson and St. Louis Counties – are exempt from any of the provisions under Section 71.015.
“The timing seems right for the annexation,” Mallinson said. “We (Sugar Creek) all know them (the annexation residents).”
For the exact boundaries of the proposed Sugar Creek annexation, visit: http://jcebmo.org/sites/default/files/SUGAR%20CREEK%20%20LEGAL%2004-08-2014.pdf.