Anti-annexation Bill Zips Through House Committee, Stuns City Lobbyists

Stunned lobbyists for Tennessee cities are trying to regroup after Rep. Mike Carter’s bill upending the state’s 15-year-old urban growth boundary law barreled through the House Local Government Committee on Tuesday despite their concerns,reports Andy Sher.
The freshman Ooltewah Republican says he brought the bill affecting annexation (HB231) because of Chattanooga officials’ previous efforts to amend its growth plan in order to, in Carter’s words, “cherry pick” affluent suburbs. But he says the problems extend well beyond Chattanooga, and so does his bill.
Calling it the “Ryan’s buffet rule” after the all-you-can-eat restaurant chain, Carter says the bill requires cities to “clean” their “plates” by annexing everything in their current urban growth plans before seeking to amend them.
Another bill provision requires cities to meet their requirements to provide services to all previously annexed areas before amending the plans. Because the bill affects every town and city in the state, that brought officials from the Tennessee Municipal League, which represents them, running to the full committee after the measure passed subcommittee last week.
“This is not limited to Chattanooga,” TML Deputy Director Chad Jenkins told committee members. “It’s not limited to Hamilton County. It’s not limited to big cities. It’s every city in the state.”
Jenkins warned of “unintended consequences if this bill is passed” with impacts far beyond Hamilton County.
He also said the 1998 law, which requires cities to create urban growth plans as a solution to urban sprawl, worked in Chattanooga’s case because other cities and Hamilton County easily blocked the city’s effort on the local coordinating committee comprised of local mayors.
Jenkins also warned Carter’s bill would block cities from annexing property held by property owners who wish to come into the city for various reasons. He cited as an example a farmer who wants to increase the value of his land by obtaining services like water and sewage to entice developers.

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