As the new water and sewer lines snaking their way to the Field of Dreams Movie Site begin to come online, many at City Hall are celebrating the massive project’s success. But for some who live along the utility lines’ route, its become a growing source of frustration.
The prospect of connecting to municipal lines located just feet from their properties and leaving the potential costs associated with maintaining a private well and septic system behind is highly appealing, but many of those rural residents are now finding that even though these new lines are close by, they aren’t able to personally benefit.
So, the question boils down to whether or not a non-resident can tie into Dyersville’s municipal water and sewer infrastructure, and the short answer is no.
The Dyersville City Council’s current position is that in order to hook on to one of the new lines adjacent to Dyersville East Road, homeowners first need to be a city taxpayer, and in order to do that, they need to be annexed in.
City Administrator Mick Michel said one potential issue previous councils have discussed in the past is that if non-residents are allowed to tie into city infrastructure, should there come a day where the city wants to annex that corridor in, residents will say no because they are essentially benefiting from city infrastructure without having to pay the city’s tax levy.
The investments made in the city’s water and sewer structure belong to the Dyersville taxpayer, who also foot the bill for repairs and maintenance, so there is resistance to letting those who aren’t paying into the system to reap the benefits.
In previous discussions involving this project, the council also noted the prospective ease of hooking into an established system could be appealing enough to trigger a voluntary annexation movement.
In city governments across the state, annexation can be a four-letter word — the process often creates fiercely divided camps and can end up being tied up in the court system for years.
While it can be convoluted, controversial and certainly more than can be explained in a single article, Michel gave a short overview of the three basic types of annexation procedure.
The first, which is highly favored by city governments, is voluntary.
“If the property owner desires to be part of the city, they submit a letter to the city and the city council then holds a public hearing on that application,” Michel said. “That is the easiest route.”
The next mechanism is considered semi-voluntary, depending on which party is asked.
Known as 80/20, during the application process, a city can annex in an additional 20% of whatever the total acreage being considered. For instance, if the city wants to annex in 100 acres outside of city limits, as long as property owners representing 80% of that total area are in favor, that remaining 20% is coming along with it, pending state review.
This route follows the same road map as voluntary, with a hearing from the council, but a state’s City Development agency makes the final determination on whether the annexation goes through.
The last, a least favorable to almost all involved, is coercive.
“That means the city would take a chunk of land of land and annex it in involuntarily,” Michel said. “That goes through the vote of the people as well as gets approval from City Development.”
One giant caveat to all three options is that the land being considered for annexation must share a continuous boundary with the city — it can’t be done sporadically.
Looking at the city’s corporate boundary map, there is a tentacle reaching to the northeast that includes the Field of Dreams Movie Site property. So, on the north side of Dyersville East Road, the city does have a continuous corporate boundary, meaning property owners on that side could hook in with little to no trouble if they express the desire to be annexed in.
However, for those on the south side of the road who want to get hooked onto the city’s infrastructure but aren’t continuously connected to the city and don’t have adjacent property owners on board with the process, there does exist a fourth option — a property owner outside of the city limits can sign a pre-annexation deal.
“We will provide city services, and in exchange for that agreement, once our corporate boundary lines are continuous with your property, that petition automatically gets submitted to the city with no protest,” Michel said.
There have also been some questions raised about right-of-ways (ROW) and whether or not the city had permission to put all this new pipe in the ground and the answer is yes.
Before ground was even broken, the city hired engineering firms and attorneys to make sure all their ducks were in a row.
In the case of rural Dyersville along the south side of Dyersville East Road, the ROW belongs to Dubuque County, which gave the city permission to install the new water and sewer lines.
Within the ROW, the relevant governmental agency has jurisdiction over what can and cannot take place.
Anyone with more detailed questions are encouraged to reach out to City Hall.
“I’m more than happy to walk anyone through that process,” Michel said.