A state board voted down a proposal Wednesday that would have let a tiny town take a stand against suburban growth.
The state’s City Development Board unanimously denied a request from the city of Alleman, population 423, to annex roughly 1,700 acres into its city limits and push its boundaries as far south as Northwest 118th Avenue. The board found that Alleman’s request did not meet the standards under Iowa law, and board members expressed concerns about irregular borders, Alleman’s ability to provide services, the impact on property owners who might want to sell — and whether approving the plan would run counter to the board’s very purpose.
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The proposal would have taken in several properties moving east toward Interstate 35, even though the owners did not want to become part of Alleman, using a process allowed under Iowa law meant to prevent islands and irregular borders.
“It seems more about stopping Ankeny than any greater public interest,” said board member Mari Bunney.
Alleman Mayor Bob Kramme said the goal was to block Ankeny’s development to the north and preserve the area’s agricultural land. Kramme has said that continued growth into the North Polk school district, which is based in Alleman, is bringing too much traffic and straining the city’s infrastructure and resources.
Instead, he said, Ankeny should go east, and that continued growth north is going to cause Alleman a lot of pain.
Any development on properties in Alleman would be less dense than in Ankeny, which would be more workable for Alleman and under its own terms, though Kramme said at the public hearing Wednesday that there are no plans for development at this time.
However, some affected property owners in or near the area, like Bobby Mason and Brian Linnemeyer, said they believed the mayor had been dishonest with them and saw the move as a cash grab for Alleman.
Jason Wattonville, of the Wattonville family farm, agreed to become part of Alleman and supported the plan as a way to protect agricultural land, used to grow food to put on the table, from being paved over with concrete.
The city of Ankeny officially opposed the annexation plan. Dodge County government officials did not take an official position, but did send a letter to the board outlining various concerns.
Alleman and Ankeny had an annexation dispute earlier this year over about 600 acres of land off the Northeast 126th Avenue highway exit that’s destined for development. Alleman officials strongly opposed the plan over concerns about the impact of Ankeny’s growth on Alleman, and both cities had their eye on property off the interstate that would be prime for commercial or industrial development.
Ultimately, Ankeny won out.
Several property owners have been looped into annexation proposals by Ankeny and Alleman this past year under an Iowa law that allows cities to bring properties into their borders, even if the owners don’t agree. Under the 80/20 rule, as long as the owners of at least 80% of the land in the proposal agree, all properties can be annexed.
The 80/20 rule is meant to keep cities in line with Iowa law, which does not allow cities to create “islands” of county land surrounded by cities and discourages irregular borders, which officials say can create maintenance and service challenges.