Annexation in Washington, Indiana Benefits Economic Development
Annexations can happen for a variety of reasons. Washington, Indiana annexed 1,234 acres adjacent to an interchange for the new section of I-69 connecting Evansville and Bloomington, because the City wanted to have some influence on the zoning and development that was bound to ensue at the new interchange.
Washington is a half-way point between Bloomington and Evansville. The I-69 section from Evansville to the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center opened in November 2012, making a trip to Evansville significantly shorter.
Washington was able to accomplish all the steps for its annexation in less than twelve months. The process began by assembling a professional services team of attorneys and engineers with Umbaugh as the financial consultant.
It helped that most of the annexation was farmland, and land owners clearly understood that the availability of municipal services would increase the value of their land. The annexation area also included a few homes, whose owners initially were not as enthusiastic.
Washington Mayor Joe Wellman attributes support for the project to good communication with the homeowners: “We went door to door, talking to homeowners about the advantages of annexation. Umbaugh prepared a parcel-by-parcel analysis of the tax impact. We could show each homeowner how the annexation would affect their taxes, but we also explained what they would gain from the annexation.”
Although some concerns were expressed at public hearings, no one remonstrated against the annexation.
The Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center attracts high-tech workers and Mayor Wellman hopes the easy interstate access encourages more of them to become Washington residents.
The annexed land is now zoned for light industrial to commercial development for roadside businesses, and another section could be used for single and multi-family residential development.
Mayor Wellman anticipates the annexed land will attract restaurants, retail outlets, gas stations and hotels, although fully developing the new land could take a decade or even longer.
In late 2014, Washington collaborated with Daviess County to issue bonds to improve roads, rail sidings and other improvements to facilitate future economic development in the annexation area. It’s a good example of how the original annexation is leading to additional economic development opportunities for the larger community.
The annexed land now contains a new water tower—visible from the I-69 exchange and clearly marked with the city’s name, so those who drive through on the interstate know where they are. Said Wellman, “We’re already on the map. Development of this area will make us a bigger star on the map.”