Debate over Norfolk annexation takes center stage at planning commission meeting

NORFOLK, Neb. -- The Norfolk planning commission meeting became heated over the discussion of annexation during Tuesday's meeting.
 
Residents opposed to the proposed annexation plans to expand the city limits of Norfolk packed the Norfolk City Chambers on Tuesday morning. Many who gave their concerns over the plan live in the proposed annexed areas. Their concerns included a raise in taxes, fees for connecting existing services to the cities, and how citizens would be able to afford to live on their own land if annexation takes place.
 
"I guess I have some issues with what our taxes are going to do," said Pete Becker, who lives in the proposed annex area. "Especially-and what the services are...that were supposed to get for the increase of taxes. Can you answer the question of what our taxes are going to go, up percentage-wise before an annex into the city? Have you done that study yet? Well the percentages that I've ripped out...you're looking at over 17%. The thing I'm wanting to know is what am I getting for that 17%?"
 
The Norfolk planning commission was unable to provide an exact percentage of tax increase during today's meeting. Many took to issue with the possible increase in their cost of living which would force them to leave. Residents cited their fixed income and retirement would not be able to afford the increases.
 
"These are people's lives," said David Lux, who lives in the annex area. "These are people that live here, these are my neighbors, I've lived at that property since I got out of the Army in 1996. I'm looking at maybe 5-10 years I can retire, put up a barn and spend my winters building a boat.
 
You're talking about things that are gonna assess me well over what I paid for the house...you got a whole lot of area that's already in the city limits that's not developed, you're gonna destroy neighbors lives because your 40 thousand is less than 42 thousand. I hope you guys can sleep with that."
 
To the frustration of many in attendance, many of their questions could not be answered by the council.
 
Since the item agenda was only approving that the proposed annexation fell into the comprehensive plan created by the city, the planning commission could not provide answers.
 
On top of this, the planning commission was not voting on approving or disproving annexation during Tuesday's meeting. However, many on the board advised citizens to bring their questions to the August 25, meeting at the Norfolk library. There the city of Norfolk will be able to provide the data and more comprehensive information about what annexation will cause.
 
"Their decision here today isn't based on those questions that I've heard so far," said Steven Rames the Norfolk Public Works Director. "Their decision here today is 'is the annexation that has been presented in the intended resolution in line with what's in the comprehensive plan?' That is all this board has been asked to determine.
 
These questions really need to come back to staff on the 25th and hopefully, we can answer many of the questions that are unknown before you. On the public hearing on 9/7 (September 7, city council meeting) that's where these kinds of questions can be heard by your elected city council."
 
Following the public hearing, the planning commission unanimously approved the motion that the proposed annexation fell in line with the proposed plan. The next step for the city of Norfolk is to present their plan on August 25, at 5 pm at the Norfolk library. There they can hear the community concerns over annexations and be able to address the concerns during that meeting or at the September 7, city council meeting. 
 
Material and information for the annexation plan can be found here
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