Fremont wants to grow.
And Fremont wants to develop economically.
How those two activities unfold are often topics of debate among the community.
As reported earlier this week, Costco Wholesale requested the City of Fremont to annex a large plat of land for the construction and operation of its fully integrated poultry processing operation. Situated just south of Fremont – outside the city’s corporate boundaries – the location encompasses slightly more than 400 acres south of Cloverly Street in the Hills Farm area.
Anyone who follows the news or listens to the pensive undertones of community conversation, knows the issue carries controversy for a variety of reasons.
All opinion aside, a few more “I’s” need to be dotted and a few more “t’s” need to be crossed before Costco makes its final decision on the location.
One of those actions includes the annexation of the Hills Farm land into Fremont’s corporate boundaries allowing Costco to take advantage of certain jurisdictional benefits such as tax incremental financing. TIF can only be applied for properties within a city’s corporate limits.
Another action that must happen before the annexation of Hills Farm involves a piece of land known as the Roadway Subdivision. This land is a trapezoidal-shaped area where old Highway 8 intersects Downing Street in south Fremont. More on this plot of land later.
So what happens next as the city, community and Costco move ahead, towards that ultimate decision?
Largely, the process involves many technical zoning and jurisdictional issues. Regardless of opinion, or what side of the fence one falls, in regards to the Costco proposal, possessing some notion about how those complicated and largely bureaucratic steps are handled and advanced can open a window of transparency. It can assist the community to better understand how government officials operate within the confines of specific rules, ordinances, laws and official etiquette that can be easily misunderstood by the laymen.
According to Troy Anderson, director of planning for the city, at the upcoming Planning Commission meeting June 20, the commission will hear and reflect upon Costco’s petition. At that meeting, commission members will vote to “recommend” or not, the annexation petition. If the petition is recommended, an ordinance (i.e. bill) will be drafted and passed on to the city council for consideration.
The city council is then required by state law to hold three readings of that ordinance. Those readings allow for public discussion and possible revisions before city leaders make their final vote for approval or rejection. Each reading will take place at a separate city council meeting. The date and time of those meetings will be advertised and open to the public. Anderson also acknowledged that the readings may occur at specially scheduled council meetings, that is, meetings scheduled outside the regular bi-monthly city council gatherings.
“We know for sure the planning commission meeting (to hear and reflect upon the petition) is slated for June 20th. And we’ll know in the next few weeks what the city council meeting schedule will look like,” Anderson said.
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“The applicant (Costco) has a development timeline they would like to satisfy,” Anderson added. “The city council generally tries to respect a developer’s timeline … but also wants ensure that they are receiving public input.”
Costco hopes to break ground on the project sometime next fall, according to interviews with Cecilia Harry of the Greater Fremont Development Council.
Currently, Costco’s new location in the Hills Farm area lies outside Fremont’s corporate limits in what is technically termed the extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ). Costco’s petition represents a formal request of annexation to the City of Fremont. Annexation would effectively extend the city’s corporate boundary.
Said another way, annexing land helps a city grow its jurisdiction. Once inside a city’s jurisdiction property owners are entitled to certain advantages such as utility services, sewage, fire and rescue, police and numerous other political subdivision benefits and drawbacks. For instance, while gaining the advantages of utilities, sewage and fire services, property owners will also be required to pay the taxes for those services.
ETJ for a city like Fremont, embodies a two-mile extension of land beyond the city’s corporate boundary. Additionally, a city can only annex land within that ETJ boundary. Annexing land must also be done in a step by step method that maintains continuous, uninterrupted jurisdictional area. For example, a city cannot annex a piece of ETJ land that is a mile from the corporate boundary without first annexing the land that lies in between that mile.
Think of it this way: a city needs to build a bridge before they can access the land. And this is precisely the case for the Hills Farm land in regards to its orientation with the Roadway Subdivision mentioned earlier.
According to Fred Mytty, Dodge County Clerk, a resolution adopted by the Dodge County Board in 1966 established the Roadway Subdivision as part of a larger county industrial tract. If a county board designates a tract (or lot) as county industrial, then the city cannot annex the land without permission from the property owners by way of a petition filed by the property owners to Dodge County.
Once Dodge County approves the petition, Fremont can then move to annex the Roadway Subdivision properties and build a conceptual “bridge” of land that maintains a continuous, uninterrupted area of city jurisdiction. That bridge will lead to the Hills Farm area, granting access for annexation by Fremont.
Currently, Dodge County has received petitions from all the property owners with parcels inside the Roadway Subdivision according to Mytty, Anderson and County Surveyor Clark Boschult.
At its regular meeting on June 8th, the Dodge County Board of Supervisors will entertain public hearings and action on those parcels.
Expansion and growth can be both advantageous, controversial and a complicated process.
As Fremont Mayor Scott Getzschman stated in a prior interview relating to Costco’s new proposed location and petition for annexation, “As we go through that process, we can go only as fast as the law will provide ... the main thing is that you have (transparency) and make sure everybody knows what’s going on.”