Storm Lake city officials are on the right track now. They are turning to residents of Storm Lake and the rural neighborhoods for opinions on annexation, rather than just to a well-paid consultant.
Annexation discussion has been going on for 10 years at least, and is still at square one. This time, however, the council is trying to do a very conscientious job of covering all bases toward a thoughtful proposal.
The issue isn't really squeezing additional property tax revenue for the city out of rural areas - if that's all it were about, the public could rightly demand that the discussion be dropped.
The issue is land. Storm Lake's city limits have become very tight. There is little desirable space left to promote for the housing developments we need badly; a limited area available for new business which can bring the jobs and services we need.
Storm Lake needs some room for growth, and it needs it in areas that are likely to be successful in that growth. Other areas perhaps make some sense to square off city lines, extend city services, or maintain sound control of environmental resources.
If annexation came down to an effort to involuntarily annex rural homes, it could be bitter and ugly. We prefer to think that some compromises by the city and perhaps some individual sacrifices by some property owners may be achieved to eventually reach a common-sense solution based not on taxes, but on what is right for the city to position for controlled growth.
Annexation does not have to be a bad word.
We will need some space, and because of that, annexation as an issue probably isn't going to go away. It would be easy for the council members to dodge controversy and drop the subject entirely, but it wouldn't be responsible for them to do so.
The public is being invited to share its thoughts, hopes and concerns relating to annexation with city officials, and that is a sign that the council is on the right track. We hope citizens give it a fair listen, and take the council up on the opportunity for input.