Corbin H. Crable
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The Gardner and Edgerton city councils on Sept. 16 inched toward a resolution to the divisive annexation boundary issue that has been the focus of two joint work sessions.
Members of both councils met for a second joint work session last week in Edgerton, where they agreed to coordinate a financial feasibility review to examine the possibility of sharing the cost of public improvements to Waverly Road. That review would be conducted by Springsted Inc., a financial advisory firm that serves both cities.
Gardner has advocated for Waverly Road to be a western boundary on the southern side of the city, while Edgerton council members have said they believe Gardner’s western boundary should end at its current city limits. Gardner Mayor Dave Drovetta described Waverly Road and the area north of U.S. 56 Highway as the “most contentious” areas in the boundary talks.
Drovetta reminded members of both councils on Thursday evening that they must have the area’s future in mind, and that little change will be seen in the present.
“My sense from the existing property owners is that they don’t want to be part of any city until there is (intermodal) development. This is not a tomorrow event. It’s a five-to-10-year event, and we’ll be dealing with different property owners then,” Drovetta said. “We should look at this from the standpoint of a future case, not a present case.”
But Edgerton council member Heidi Wiseman said she believes both governing bodies needed to listen to the concerns of present property owners as well.
“We were put into office not to do what we want, but to do what they want,” she said. “When it comes to annexation, they do have a say.”
Drovetta suggested that as population growth continues, each city should look at the other’s comprehensive plan throughout the annexation process to ensure consistency.
“We want to keep cohesiveness with our schools,” he noted.
The talks at one point became heated between members of both councils.
“Do you consider Gardner’s proposal to be greedy?” Gardner Council Vice President Steve Hale asked Gillespie. “I think you guys are being greedy, considering the scope of the development that will happen.”
Both Hale and Drovetta expressed pessimism about the cities reaching an annexation agreement.
“I haven’t seen any kind of concession between Monday and now,” Drovetta said. “You have drawn a border that prohibits Gardner’s growth. Period.”
Gillespie, meanwhile, accused Gardner of “wanting the land around the intermodal – plain and simple.”
Toward the end of the discussion, members of both councils talked about the possibility of finding some sort of agreement regarding Waverly, with Edgerton council member Jody Brown and Gardner council member Brian Broxterman saying they would be willing to discuss certain concessions. Gardner council member Kristy Harrison said she would be unwilling to concede on Waverly.
“And I feel that if we concede on Waverly, we do not concede on the area north of 56 Highway,” Gillespie said.
Instead, Gardner City Administrator Stewart Fairburn and Edgerton City Administrator David Dillner told the governing bodies that they would contact Springsted to conduct a financial feasibility review on Waverly Road to get a better idea of the cost of maintaining the road for each city.
Council members will continue communication regarding a potential agreement. The Edgerton City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 23, while the Gardner City Council will not convene again until its meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 4. Both meetings will take place at each town’s city hall.