CENTERBURG — At their Jan. 4 meeting, council members gave a first reading to an ordinance authorizing the village to enter into a pre-annexation agreement with Whistlestop Properties Inc.

According to attorney Lauren Swihart, legal counsel for the village, the agreement is still being negotiated.

Whistlestop wants to annex parcels 17-00368 and 17-00497.002 into the village. The properties front on State Route 3 across from Centerburg High School.

To be annexed, property must be contiguous to property in the village. Parcel 17-00368 is contiguous to a Whistlestop property already annexed into the village.

Under the ordinance, the village will extend sewer services to the parcels. Whistlestop will provide the storm water drainage and other utility easements.

Another provision of the ordinance notes that the village and Hilliar Township have already agreed to terms of an annexation agreement between Hilliar Township in support of Whistlestop's annexation petition.

That's news to the trustees, although they acknowledge the village has submitted a proposal.

“There's been no meeting where we have agreed to it, even verbally,” Trustee Eric Cochran said at the Jan. 11 trustee meeting.

“Everything is still on hold,” said Trustee Gary Ross. “They canceled a meeting with no explanation.”

Trustee Jason Rogers said that part of the village's proposal calls for township approval without other parties' commitment.

“They want us to take the TIF off so that we can start talking about how to develop it,” he said. “The village would have full zoning authority in that area and how it will be zoned. We would still be receiving the taxes for the property, but it would no doubt be used up in repaying the TIF. The village will have no financial responsibility, yet will have all of the say.

“We are looking for a joint TIF, where both the village and township have financial responsibilities.”

The annexation process began last summer amid confusion as to what type of annexation was being requested and how many property owners were involved. To protect the township's financial interests, Hilliar Township trustees created a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) district. The TIF covers seven parcels, including parcels 17-00368 and 17-00497.002.

Rogers said the trustees do not favor the proposed creation of an enterprise zone because that would allow the village and county to determine any tax abatements without the township having any say in it. The trustees will only accept a Type 2 annexation.

“That's our perception of it,” he said of the village's proposal. “That's why we wanted to have that meeting, to get some clarification.”

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