Jeffersonville will delay its proposed annexation of nearly 3,700 households until early next year, a pair of city councilmen said Tuesday.

“We kind of decided to slow down,” said Councilman John Perkins.

“We need to slow it down a little bit and make sure we are communicating what’s going on,” Councilman Ed Zastawny said.

The announcement came a day after more than 80 people, most of them opposed to annexation, attended a City Council meeting at which annexation wasn’t even on the agenda. Eleven people spoke against the city’s growth, during the meeting’s public comment section.

“It sounds like they’re making some positive changes,” said Vanessa Smith, a spokeswoman for Citizens Against Annexation. “I think that maybe we took them by surprise.”

During Monday’s council meeting, Perkins said the fiscal plan and ordinance that would lead to the annexation could get their first reviews early next month.

Through annexation, Jeffersonville’s population could grow from approximately 29,300 to nearly 38,000, making it larger than New Albany. Officials have said that the city’s assessed value, which is about $1 billion, could increase by 40 to 45 percent once the proposed annexation takes effect.

Perkins said city officials need to “better inform and educate people about what they’re going to get and what they’re going to pay, with a longer period of education.”

Smith, who lives in Oak Park, said she us uncertain whether an additional period for dialogue would change her mind about annexation.

“People have a lot of concerns, a lot of questions,” she said. “It’s too early for me to say.”

Smith said an ongoing concern for her is the use of deed restrictions prohibiting annexation as a catalyst for the process.

During the past decade, when Jeffersonville has agreed to provide sewer service to new subdivisions outside its corporate limits, it has required that developers agree to deed restrictions prohibiting homebuyers from remonstrating against annexation. Remonstrance is only possible when 65 percent of the property owners or owners of 75 percent of the assessed value in an area target for annexation agree to do so.

Smith said she remains concerned that the loophole in the law could allow Jeffersonville to annex homes whose owners were probably unaware of their deed restrictions when they bought their houses and that the number of restricted deeds are being used as leverage against properties with sewer service from the Oak Park Conservancy District.

“Unless there is some way to fix that inherent unfairness, I still have a problem with the process,” Smith said.

Even if the beginning of the annexation process is delayed until March or April, it would still allow the annexation to take effect by Jan. 1, 2008.

Perkins said the fiscal plan will likely be available for review in early September. He said the city might also develop an interactive Web site to help people understand the potential financial implications of Jeffersonville’s expansion.

“Let’s make sure there’s transparency in the process,” Zastawny said.

Perkins said the shift in the timetable occurred Monday night, following the council meeting. A small group of city officials and annexation opponents stood outside City Hall following the meeting, discussing elements of the process. Perkins said that conversation, combined with information presented at the council meeting, was enough to spark conversations among individual council members that the process should be slowed.

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