Land owners make case for detachment

Property once slated for development returns to agriculture

Princeton – The Princeton City Council considered and ultimately approved by a 4-1 vote at its Dec. 22 meeting a petition from the Anderson family to detach from the city a 200-acre parcel it recently bought. By deannexing the property, it would revert back into Princeton Township’s jurisdiction.
Council Member Victoria Hallin voted no, and the resolution in the council’s packet was to deny the request for attachment.
The acreage was once slated for development, and before the recession of 2008, investors had planned to build a 500-unit housing development named Heritage Village that never materialized because of the economy. At the time, Princeton paid $1.2 million to expand water and sewer infrastructure to the property in anticipation of the development.
Last year the city thought it might be able to recruit a server-farm developer to the property and area and began the process to rezone it. That action was met with resistance from neighbors who didn’t want to live next to a data center. The rezoning was postponed, and no developer materialized.
Most recently, Greg and Tammi Anderson and their daughter and son-in-law Jessica and Pernell Swanson bought the acreage from the would-be home developers for farming. They came to the Dec. 22 meeting to urge the city to approve the detachment. Greg Anderson said the family plans to use the land to expand its cattle herd; he said the acreage would never be developed because he will farm it as long he’s around and the next generation would farm it as long as they’re around.
Anderson said while reversing the annexation takes the land out of the city’s property tax rolls, the income would be minimal anyway at less than $1,000 per year. His family farm surrounds the property, and he said he doesn’t see how the land could ever be developed anyway with the airport on one side of it and the Princeton Township on another. The township, he said, had approved a resolution that week allowing the land to come back into the township.
Council Member Thom Walker said he did not have a problem with the detachment but wanted a stipulation in the resolution that said the land would come back into the city if it were ever to be anything besides agricultural land. While the city’s legal counsel had concerns about if such a clause is enforceable.
Hallin said she is against the detachment because the taxpayers made a significant investment all those years ago and that someday, the land would be developed and the investment could start paying off. She was reluctant to undo all the hard work exerted to annex the property into the city.
She acknowledged the effect of the recession but said when development does begin to boom again, the city can only grow to the west. Hallin feels the property will be developed and probably for industrial usage. She reiterated that taxpayers have already paid for infrastructure that would allow the city to grow, and westward expansion is also what the city’s comprehensive plan outlines.
Anderson retorted, “We’ve been your only offer (on the land) in 14 years.”
Mayor Paul Whitcomb said the wishes of the Andersons as the new land owner should be respected just those of the previous owners had been. Council members discussed options such as leaving the land in the city and how the piece of property is affected by wellhead-protection boundaries. City Administrator Mark Karnowksi said the city would lose property taxes if it approved the detachment.
Council Member Dick Dobson said he didn’t see where it would benefit the city much to keep the property. He said Anderson is a good, local steward of the land and wildlife who cares about what happens there. Dobson said in his time on the council, Princeton had always been a city that works cooperatively with property owners.