December 2, 2010 12:17:00 PM
When it comes to annexation, the city of Columbus is caught between a rock and a hard place.
The rock is the heavy costs associated with providing services to new city areas. Seemingly, a no-brainer would be to annex the neighborhoods and areas northeast of the city, including Sherwood Forest and other neighborhoods. The problem is the city would have to construct a new fire station and infrastructure to serve that area, and the costs outweigh the returns.
The hard place is the river. Annexing anything to the west of the Tenn-Tom is also cost-prohibitive, for the same reasons: high infrastructure costs, little return.
A proposal to annex Columbus Air Force Base into the city limits, An idea championed by Link CEO Joe Higgins, appears off the table, at least for now. Annexing the base would improve the city''s population, median income, and demographics on paper, possibly luring new retail, the argument goes. But other than shuffling numbers on paper, nothing really changes for the city.
The city has bandied about annexation ideas for years. A new effort began in earnest in the past months, and consultants have offered a meager, yet cost-effective annexation plan which we believe is wise for the city to pursue.
According to the plan, proposed by consultant Chris Watson of Bridge and Watson Planning Consultants in Oxford, four areas to the north, east and west of the city would be annexed. The areas are heavy on businesses, with only 58 homes included.
Two of the areas lie along the east side of Lehmberg Road, but are separated by the most populated three-quarter-mile stretch, which has infrastructure problems the city is wise not to undertake.
The annexation plan attempts to rile the fewest number of residents possible, while gaining the most tax revenue feasible. Most areas are already served by city services. Avoiding residential areas also avoids skewing the racial makeup in wards, though ward lines will have to be redrawn anyway, most likely, when 2010 census results come in next year.
We believe this annexation is a good start, but the city should still pursue annexing more areas. Columbus needs to grow, to maintain its retail base and attract new residents, and tax revenue.
We can only look to Tupelo, an hour north, which doubled its borders in 1989 and is on the cusp of annexing even more land. That city is flourishing with development, retail and otherwise.
The City Council should pursue this annexation plan, and then invest the promise of added revenue to continue helping Columbus grow and thrive.