Westfield moves toward annexation of disputed Adams Township plat

A sprint between Westfield and Sheridan for planning and taxing control of a valuable block of land in Northern Hamilton Count appears to be over.

Westfield gets the gold. But Sheridan is the favorite in the marathon.

“We can’t stop this but we can stop the dominoes from falling,” said Todd Burtron, a legal consultant for Sheridan.

The disputed undeveloped plat Westfield plans to annex despite objections by Sheridan and Adams Township involves 33 acres north of 216th Street along U.S. 31.

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To thwart the annexation, the town and township are working on a merger plan that would incorporate the area and place it within Sheridan town limits. That would stop Westfield’s annexation because Indiana law prohibits cities from annexing land in incorporated towns and cities.

But the consolidation won't be finalized until November at the earliest and the Westfield City Council could approve the annexation at its February meeting — too soon for Sheridan to stop it, Burtron said.

“But it will prevent any more annexations if Westfield plans on creeping north,” he said.

Sheridan Town Councilor Daniel Bragg said it was always a long-shot that the reorganization would pass in time to stop the annexation but the council thought the action itself would signal to Westfield how serious they were about the issue.

"We had hoped our pending reorganization would cause some amount of pause for the Westfield City Council members, but it doesn't appear that the new council cares at all about their neighbors.," Bragg said.

Westfield Mayor Scott Willis said the city doesn't plan further annexation and was doing this one because the land owner, Shear Property Group, requested it.

After winning the Republican primary, council member Scott Willis is unopposed and will become the next mayor of Westfield. The city will have a new mayor, clerk-treasurer and entirely new city council in 2024. "I try to communicate with residents about what's going on. I've made myself very accessible as you know, through my town hall meetings, I've done it every quarter since I took office," Willis said. "And I find that when you do that, even when people disagree with you they at least respect where your opinions are at." Willis is seen Wednesday, August 16, 2023, at his workplace in Indianapolis.

“They reached out to us and I am not going to deny our residents to increase our tax base,” Willis said.

Shear also owns 63 acres on the southern side of 216th Street that Westfield has already annexed in bordering Washington Westfield Township. Willis said the company plans to build an industrial or high-tech business park across both plots of land and wants one government providing infrastructure and utilities.

Officials at Shear did not respond to a request for comment.

There is a sense of urgency in claiming proprietorship over the development. Hamilton County is spending $40 million to bring water and sewer lines along U.S. 31 north of 216th Street, which will spur development and create property tax revenue. At the same time, the Indiana Department of Transportation is upgrading U.S. 31 to an expressway-style corridor that is also expected to attract developers.

Sheridan and Adams Township leaders said they, not Westfield, should control what projects are selected in their jurisdictions when the wave of development hits.

“The leaders don’t want Westfield controlling it,” Burtron said. “People community-wide are paying attention and they are receptive to what they’ve got to say.”

The consolidation effort is in the early stages with public information hearings. A series of legal steps are still required, including a fiscal impact study, approval by state agencies, and separate votes of 51% by Sheridan and township residents for the deal to be finalized.

Call IndyStar reporter John Tuohy at 317-444-6418 or email him at john.tuohy@indystar.com. Follow him on Facebook and X/Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Westfield moves toward annexation of disputed Adams Township plat