TACIR recommends extending annexation moratorium

Split over a proposal to require public votes on municipal annexations, a state panel this week recommended that Tennessee lawmakers extend a state moratorium on adversarial annexations for a year, reports Andy Sher.

The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations OK’d the recommendation last week as its members — comprising legislators and city and county mayors — bogged down on a variety of thorny issues.

Lawmakers last session passed the moratorium on cities’ forced annexations of residential and farm property and asked TACIR to study annexation and related matters under the state’s landmark Urban Growth Planning Act. The ban doesn’t apply to annexations of commercial and industrial property or cases where property owners seek to come into a town or city.

The moratorium resulted from legislation sponsored by Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, and Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, R-Hixson. Their bill requires public referendum votes on nonconsensual residential and farm annexations. Under the 1998 growth act, cities must hold referendums on property they seek to annex outside their growth boundaries. But inside the boundaries, cities may annex simply by passing an ordinance.

Towns and cities mobilized last session and opposed Carter’s and Watson’s bill, charging it would harm cities by making it harder to annex property key to economic growth. Carter and Watson argued residents should have a say-so when cities come after their property.

Despite TACIR’s vote, Carter said he intends to renew his push in the Legislature next month.
“They can beat me, but they’re going to have to do it in front of God and everybody,” the lawmaker said.

During Wednesday’s meeting, TACIR members debated changes in the Urban Growth Planning Act, which required cities to file plans showing where they might annex over the next 20 years.
Cities say the law has worked well. Critics differ. In punting the issue to TACIR, lawmakers placed a moratorium on certain annexations until May 15, 2014. TACIR wants an extension to May 15, 2015.