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Casper looks to annex land ahead of 2020 census

Casper looks to annex land ahead of 2020 census

City Council

Mike Huber, councilman for Ward I, speaks at a February meeting. Huber spoke in favor on a city annexation plan this week.

The city of Casper is looking to annex several residential areas ahead of the 2020 census.

The proposed annexations include 13 homes on the west side of South Poplar Street in the South Garden Creek Acres subdivision, 14 homes on the east side of Robertson Road, and the Green Valley Mobile Home Park on South Robertson Road. All the properties right now fall within Natrona County, but are not part of any other municipality.

When a municipality annexes an area, the land becomes part of the city. The process is often a tool to allow cities to maintain healthy growth while still providing amenities like fire hydrants and street lamps to residents who would otherwise fall outside of the city’s bounds. It also ensures residents benefiting from those services are paying for them with property and sales taxes.

These annexations are expected to provide the city well over $40,000 annually. Over 20 years, the city estimates nearly $1 million in additional property and sales tax revenue. Still, the process will cost the city some money.

The South Poplar Street area is already platted, or mapped out, but the Robertson Road area is not, and the city will have to hire a surveyor to complete that work before it can annex the properties.

Casper city planner Craig Collins said it could cost between $5,000 and $10,000 to plat that particular area. There are also administrative and legal costs to annexation, which total roughly $6,500 per annexation, Collins said.

Typically, individuals or companies ask to be annexed by the city, rather than the city seeking land out, Collins said. In fact, this is the first time in Collins’ roughly two decades working for the city that he’s been asked to seek out annexations for the city to initiate. He said the city is hoping to increase its population now, so that when the 2020 census is finished, Casper will benefit from the increased headcount.

This is particularly important in Wyoming because municipalities don’t control their own tax revenue, and instead the state distributes that money based on census figures.

So Collins has been scouting areas adjacent to Casper’s boundaries that would be well suited for annexation. Areas that are already developed and that wouldn’t need many infrastructure improvements to meet city standards are at the top of the list.

Right now, three annexations have been proposed, but Collins said he has a budget for up to 10 this year, though the city may not reach that number.

“It’s not a goal or anything,” he said. “These are the three that make sense so far.”

There are some legal steps municipalities must complete before annexing land. First, the area must be contiguous, or adjacent, to the city’s boundaries. The city must also conduct an annexation study, essentially a cost-benefit analysis. The city must also provide residents in the areas to be annexed a variety of information, like how much city services will cost the homeowner annually, when those services would be available, and the projected property taxes.

The process also requires a public hearing, where members of the public would be able to comment on the plans.

Homeowners living in an area the city wants to annex have the ability to oppose the annexation, but only if they don’t currently receive city services like water and sewer, and if they aren’t 75 percent or more surrounded by other properties annexed by the city.

Collins anticipates the whole process to annex these three areas taking between four and five months.

Casper City Manager Carter Napier said he also plans to hold a public meeting regarding the annexations for residents to come and have their questions answered by city staff. No date has been set for that meeting.

The City Council responded positively to the proposals during a Tuesday work session.

“The city of Casper runs a very significant risk of being surrounded and choked if we don’t continue growing and annexing,” Councilman Mark Huber said.

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Local Government Reporter

Morgan Hughes primarily covers local government. After growing up in rural Wisconsin, she graduated from Marquette University in 2018. She moved to Wyoming shortly after and covered education in Cheyenne before joining the Star-Tribune in May 2019.

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