The lack of fully-served industrial sites has been an Achilles heel for the market as far back as I can remember. Ensuring that land is available for industrial purposes has been a priority of the Ames City Council for many years and is currently the first bullet point under the title of “Promote Economic Development” in the goals set out for 2016.
This is a logical priority for the City of Ames. In order for a community to set itself up for success and be well-positioned for future economic opportunity, it must identify what it can offer to put itself at a competitive advantage. As I have discussed in previous articles, Ames already has much to offer that sets it apart from cities of comparable size. What we need to gain the competitive edge is available space for a company to build or expand their business. The answer to that is fully-serviced and readily-available land to facilitate the location of a variety of industries. Businesses which will pay property taxes to ultimately support the community and grow the property tax base as well as create meaningful employment opportunities to employ the citizenry.
Currently, an area of land in excess of 1,300 acres is being considered for annexation. The land sits strategically along the mainline Union Pacific Railroad, in close proximity to Interstate 35 and U.S. Highway 30. This area would meet the needs of projects that require a large parcel of land and allow them to locate here. If a business prospect called today and needed 100-acres fully served with the requisite utilities our community would not be able to respond. As a result of the aforementioned infrastructure this area would give Ames a highly competitive advantage when it comes to competing for large-scale economic development opportunities.
With the goals of Ames City Council in mind the Ames Economic Development Commission has led the process of engaging the landowners along Lincoln Way east of Barilla in the conversation surrounding annexation. We have discussed how the land will benefit the Ames community by enriching the property for future sale and development potential.
The AEDC is currently working with the City of Ames in the process of voluntary annexation, seeking to acquire the support of the property owners for annexation into the City of Ames. This can be achieved through a state law allowing for landowners representing 80% of the total landmass of the proposed annexation area to voluntarily sign on and subsequently bring with it the other 20% of the remaining land, non-voluntarily. This is to avoid creating islands of land legally outside city limits completely surrounded by the city, as well as to create even boundaries for the land. The outline of these 1,300+ acres have been selected based on what the sanitary sewer can serve using natural fall in moving waste back to the treatment plant.
Up until this point we have worked with the City of Ames to update the Ames Urban Fringe Plan, which is an agreement between the City of Ames, the City of Gilbert, and the Story County Board of Supervisors. The purpose of this agreement is to allow for planned growth up to two miles outside the current city limits. Whenever changes to this plan are made all three entities need to sign-off. This occurred in March of this year. Since that time, we have worked to obtain voluntary annexation petitions signed with enough land to represent over 80% of the total mass, which has been accomplished. The Ames City Council recently reviewed the petitions and has begun the process of annexation which occurred at their August 23rd council meeting.
The next steps for the process involve the City of Ames meeting with the Grant Township Trustees and the Story County Board of Supervisors to inform them the process has formally begun as well as seek input and answer any questions related to the proposed annexation. Following the Township meeting two public hearings for the City of Ames will be held, the first at the Planning and Zoning Recommendation Meeting, followed by a public hearing that will be held at a regular meeting of the Ames City Council. Pending approval from City Council, the State City Development Board, based in Des Moines, which oversees all annexations by cities within the state, will review the documentation to ensure all processes have been followed appropriately. Once the City Development Board has assured that the process was followed appropriately they will host a public hearing of their own and the land will then be officially annexed into the City of Ames.
After annexation is complete the most notable change will be the services deployed by the City of Ames provided to these 1,300 acres, i.e. fire & police protection. Infrastructure will be designed and then deployed by the City of Ames for water and sanitary sewer to service existing owners in the area, if they choose, as well as future businesses locating in the area. At the time of annexation, no change to the zoning will occur and all land brought into the city will remain agricultural until such time that rezoning is sought by a landowner.
Annexation and the deployment of sewer and water sets the table for economic development and puts the Ames marketplace in a position of being shovel ready.
As I close it is important to recognize that the industries that will potentially locate in this area must align with the goals and objectives of the City of Ames and our community. The AEDC, as the first point of contact, is ever mindful of the interests of the Ames community and will work in concert with the City to make sure that any business locating in this area will not overly burden infrastructure, the environment, or the extremely high quality of life we enjoy here in the Ames community. This is a process endorsed by the AEDC and we are excited about the significant potential this process presents to the community. At the end of the day it is the mission of the AEDC to bring quality employers and meaningful employment opportunities to the market. That has been our mission since inception and we will continue to work in supporting the economic goals of the City of Ames.