Mayor Donald Powell

Mayor Donald Powell at the Jan. 9 annexation public hearing, listening as citizens gave their opinion.

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ST. ANTHONY − A public hearing was held during the Jan. 9 city council meeting to discuss the city’s plan to annex about 40 properties in the county.

Many who attended stated that they did not want to be annexed. A handful of St. Anthony citizens were present and stated that they wanted the annexation to go through. The council did not make a decision on annexation that night and will continue to discuss it.

“I was really happy with the public hearing,” Mayor Donald Powell said. “People were respectful, and we didn’t have many problems. Everyone got up and said what they wanted to say. As Mayor, I was very pleased with it.”

There were a number of questions asked during the meeting and the Standard Journal has tried to compile the most relevant questions and the answers that we have at this time.

Will those annexed be able to utilize their land for agricultural purposes?

According to city council members and City Attorney William Forsberg, those who have their property zone changed will be grandfathered in and will be able to continue using their property the way they have been previously.

“This is how it works: grandfathering or non-conforming property is actually a constitutional doctrine,” Forsberg said. “It’s a doctrine found in the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution which prevents the government from taking your property and using it without due process.”

Forsberg said the concept of grandfathering property is also found in state statute.

He said that property owners could stop using their land for agriculture for several years and even then the historic use would still stand, and the land could once again be used for agriculture.

Will the annexation help lower city taxes and is the city raising property taxes in 2020?

According to Powell, the city taxes will be raised by three percent in 2020. This was approved during last year’s budget hearing for 2020. By law, the city council can approve an increase in taxes of up to three percent.

“It didn’t have anything to do with annexation,” Powell said. “We’ve been using contingency funds to meet operating expenses. You can’t run a business like that. It’s good to have a contingency fund but we try not to use it.”

Powell said the city’s levy will stay the same but because it is spread out people won’t see any kind of increase.

“People coming in will have to pay city taxes but residents (because it’s spread out over more people) might see a little decrease,” he said. “Our annexation people that already have city services (water and sewer) their increase in property tax is offset by a decrease in utility. Because they’re paying 150 percent of what the citizens are paying. If they have both it’ll pretty much be even.”

How much will annexation cost and when can individuals acquire amenities?

When asked if the city had the funds to pay for the annexation Powell said they certainly did. He said the cost of annexation is the cost of extending water and sewer lines. He said it will cost about $650,000 for sewer and $200,000 for water.

Powell said they won’t force people to hook up to the water or sewer and initially planned to extend water and sewer over three years, but if they had to they could probably get it done by the end of the year.

“It’s in the city’s interest to do it as soon as we can arrange to do it,” he said. “The longer we wait to do it the more expensive it will be.”

Councilman Rod Nichols said some have expressed concern that the sewer system may not be able to handle new properties. St. Anthony Public Works Superintendent Scott Butigan said that the city is currently using less than 50 percent of their sewer’s capacity and that the sewer lagoon was updated in 2004. Nichols said the city could double in population, and the system could handle it

Will properties over 5 acres be annexed?

During the meeting, several citizens with property over five acres questioned how the city could annex their property if the law specifically states that the city cannot annex land larger than 5 acres.

The city attorney stated during the meeting that they were right and named a handful of properties that were over the five-acre limit and that could not be annexed without the owners’ signed permission. But said that other factors listed why they could annex other properties over five acres.

“Those people that raise the issue of their parcels being larger are correct,” he said. “Unless there is an exception parcel can’t be larger than five acres and have the consent, in writing, of the property owners.”

Forsberg then named seven properties that will not be annexed without property owner consent that had parcels over five acres.

“The rest of the properties that have been proposed for annexation one way or another appear to meet the qualifications for annexation,” he said.

Those other exceptions that could lead a property to being annexed despite the five acre limit can be found in Idaho Statute. Specifically, Title 50, chapter 2, section 50-222.