Tag Archives: annexation

De-annexation debate cools in summer study

The hot topic of de-annexation was the subject of discourse by “cooler heads” during a legislative study committee hearing Monday than in the legislative session earlier this year, reports the Tennessean.

Several speakers, including Doug McGowen, chief operation officer for the city of Memphis, said while they have pushed back against the de-annexation legislation before, they aren’t necessarily diametrically opposed to it.

“We are, however, all in on the notion that we should work together to ensure that everyone who has a stake in the de-annexation game has a voice in the process,” he said. McGowen asked lawmakers to use a “locally-controlled, data driven” process that includes all stakeholders.

…Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, who chaired the special committee and said the panel had completed its task.

Following the meeting, Ketron said he felt the discussion was helpful, adding, “I think we kinda fleshed out a lot of questions today.”

But Watson disagreed. “I don’t think I heard anything I haven’t heard in the previous roughly 11 hours of testimony while we were in session,” Watson said. “Most of this is ground that’s already been plowed before.”

When asked if he plans to file another de-annexation bill during the upcoming legislation session, Watson said he would take information provided in Monday’s hearing and from the Memphis task force and work on another bill.

“We’re trying to work towards a win-win situation where it’s difficult to create win-wins,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re trying to represent citizens who were put under city government with no voice in whether that occurred or not.”

Anti-annexation PAC makes picks in legislative races

Citizens for Home Rule PAC, created last year to help candidates favoring restrictions on city government annexation, is supporting nine Republicans in state House races and six in state Senate races — mostly incumbents, but with a few exceptions.

The PAC reports $26,700 in donations to seven of the candidates in its 2nd quarter disclosure, ranging from $7,600 to Rep. Mike Carter to $100 for Rep. Andy Holt. It still had a balance of $28,162 cash on hand.

Carter, R-Ooltewah, sponsored legislation requiring voter approval in the impacted area of a city annexation, approved two years ago, and unsuccessfully pushed this year a bill to allow deannexation, wherein voters could decide to take themselves out of a city’s incorporated area.

The PAC’s parent organization, Citizens For Home Rule, strongly supported both efforts. The PAC reported receipt of $50,000 from the parent organization in its initial financial disclosure.

Here’s the latest CHR news release:
Alamo — Citizens for Home Rule Political Action Committee (CHR—PAC) announces nine key endorsements in state House of Representative races, and six endorsements in State Senate races across the State.

These endorsements are made to candidates with the most favorable views on private property owners rights views based on our 2016 candidate survey and/or the record of Members of the Tennessee General Assembly this year. We urge voters to vote for these candidates because they exemplify solid leadership and understanding regarding private property ownership. Without private property, no citizen can truly enjoy the fruit of his own labor.

“We are engaged in a struggle for the heart and soul of the Republican super-majority in the General Assembly,” said John Avery Emison, the group’s treasurer. CHR—PAC along with a handful of other principled, small-government, conservative organizations across the state are leading this struggle.

The CHR-PAC Gold Standard endorsement goes to the candidates listed below. “We are proud to stand with these fine men and women, truly limited-government conservatives one and all,” Emison said. Continue reading

Senate committee kills de-annexation bill

NASHVILLE , Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee Senate committee has voted to kill a legislative proposal seeking to allow communities to hold elections to reverse annexation by cities.

The State and Local Government Committee voted 5-3 on Wednesday to study the measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Bo Watson of Chattanooga after the Legislature adjourns for the year.

The mayors of Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga had urged lawmakers not to adopt the bill, arguing that de-annexation could end up shrinking the size of their cities.

The House earlier in the month passed the bill on a 68-25 vote. The full Senate had been poised to vote on the measure but ultimately sent it back to committee after Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville questioned the measure’s fairness and constitutionality.

An ‘oops’ in de-annexation amendment?

Apparently no one noticed at the time, but a Senate amendment to controversial de-annexation legislation approved last week deleted a provision restricting de-annexation to areas that were annexed prior to 1998, reports the Commercial Appeal.

That means that any area annexed at any time in a city’s history could now be subject to de-annexation if area residents approve the idea in a referendum. The proclaimed intent of the amendment was to authorize de-annexation statewide, not just in five cities cover by the House version of the bill.

Of course, the date restriction can be restored to the bill at next week’s Senate State and Local Government Committee meeting.

The amendment would make the vast majority of Memphis eligible for de-annexation — according to Shelby County’s website, some 74 annexations have occurred since 1819, when the city was founded.

(Senate Minority Leader) Harris (D-Memphis) said the bill, as written, could devastate cities across the state, and was like “playing Russian roulette with five bullets and a six-shooter.” As a result, he said, some lawmakers are already abandoning the bill, which he said is “headed for a buzz saw.”

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, who is a member of the committee and was at the meeting Wednesday, said he was surprised to find out Friday that the 1998 date had been removed.

…Norris said he confirmed the 1998 limitation was removed only after a reporter called Friday, and that he hadn’t had a chance to speak with Clarksville Republican Sen. Mark Green — who proposed the amendment — to see if the removal of the date was intentional.

“I can’t imagine he would do anything to kill his own bill,” he said.

The amendment was one of two approved by the committee, the other requiring de-annexed areas to continue to pay their share of debt incurred by the city since their annexations.

Norris said he expects he or another senator will propose an amendment to put the 1998 date back in unless there was a good reason for the change.

Alan Crone, who is heading up the city’s lobbying efforts for Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, said the bill has a long way to go, and many more amendments — 11 already proposed in committee — before it comes to a vote. But Crone said he’s hopeful senators will see the city’s perspective.

De-annexation bill sidetracked in Senate

A municipal de-annexation bill ran into trouble on the Tennessee Senate floor Monday and was re-referred back to committee over the the objections of sponsor Sen. Bo Watson, reports the Times-Free Press.

Senators sent Watson’s bill, which passed the House last week, back to the State and Local Government Committee on a 19-12 vote.

They later directed the committee to meet and consider the bill Wednesday in a special meeting. The purpose is to examine House amendments restricting the would-be law’s application to just five cities, including Chattanooga, which the bill says engaged in “egregious” annexations in the past.

The bill would allow citizens in tracts annexed from 1998 forward to petition for elections to de-annex themselves. Residential property owners would continue paying taxes on bonds cities issued to make improvements while the residents lived within the municipality.

Earlier, Senate State and Local Government Chairman Sen. Ken Yager, R-Kingston, objected to amendments placed on the House version of the bill by Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah.

Yager questioned the constitutionality of amendments, which under Carter’s bill would limit de-annexation by public referendum to just six cities. Johnson City was amended out on the House floor after city officials moved to de-annex some property as the bill loomed.

The chairman said the limitations and some other provisions were not what the Senate envisioned when Watson’s version was moved out of Yager’s Senate panel last year.

“The amendment that the House has put on is totally unacceptable and totally out of line with the sentiment and policy that drove those votes last year” in his committee, Yager said.

Gov voices concern about deannexation; House votes for it

The state House approved a controversial deannexation bill on a 68-25 vote Monday night, a few hours after Gov. Bill Haslam said he’s “concerned” about bill and questioned whether it violates the state Constitution. reports Richard Locker.

The amended House version (of HB779) allows residents of territories annexed into Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Kingsport and tiny Cornersville in Marshall County to petition for referendums to separate themselves from their cities. If a majority of voters approve, the areas are de-annexed.

The House voted to remove Johnson City from the bill because its city council voted last Thursday to de-annex the Gray community, which it had previously annexed over the objections of its residents.

The state constitution generally requires most legislation to impact the entire state without singling out individual places, but lawmakers have often made bills applicable to certain cities on the basis of population or local form of government and the laws stand if the courts find a valid public purpose.

The governor was asked about the bill by a municipal official during the Tennessee Municipal League’s annual spring legislative conference, prior to the amendment removing Johnson City.

…”I’m not a lawyer but I wonder about the constitutionality of something that just applies to those six, but we’ll see,” he said.
Continue reading

Memphis, Knoxville mayors rally against de-annexation

Only six cities are impacted by the latest version of de-annexation legislation and mayors in two of those — Memphis and Knoxville — are trying to rally opposition to the measure, reports Richard Locker.

The bill is the second phase of a massive shift in Tennessee municipal annexation law that began in 2014 when the General Assembly ended six decades of annexation simply by the majority votes of city councils and replaced it with a requirement for the consent of residents of areas to be taken into city limits, through referendums or petitions.

The de-annexation bill would allow 10 percent of the registered voters of a territory annexed since May 1, 1998, or whose annexation “became operative” after that date, to petition for a de-annexation referendum. De-annexation would occur if approved by a majority of voters in the referendum.

House Bill 779 failed on the last day of the 2015 legislative session but its supporters vowed to return with it this year. And they have, with an amended version that limits most of its provisions to just six cities: Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis, Johnson City, Kingsport and, oddly, Cornersville (pop. 1,199, in Marshall County) — places where the bill says “citizens have experienced the most egregious forms of annexation and have no other reasonable course to redress their grievance than to petition for a vote.”

… It’s sponsored by Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah and Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson.

“The City of Knoxville is strongly opposed to de-annexation legislation,” said Eric Vreeland, the mayor’s communications manager, on Wednesday. “…allowing de-annexation of properties that have been a part of the city of Knoxville for at least a decade, or many decades, would be chaotic. Infrastructure and facilities — streets, sidewalks and fire halls, for example — have been constructed as areas have been annexed. Services have been upgraded as businesses and residents have come into the city.”

…Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said Wednesday the bill is “potentially devastating” to his city, potentially costing it up to 100,000 residents and up to $64 million in property tax revenue.

Strickland, who took office as Memphis mayor Jan. 1, said the city has identified 10 potential de-annexation neighborhoods that could petition for referendums if the bill is approved in its current form.

Judges void 182 Knoxville annexations

Knox County judges have voided 182 annexation attempts by the city of Knoxville — all dating back a decade or more — because of a state law that took effect earlier this year that prohibits annexation without the consent of property owners.

John Avery Emison, president of the anti-annexation organization Citizens for Home Rule, estimated Wednesday about two-thirds of the properties involved were homes and a third were businesses that would have collectively paid “many millions of dollars” in city taxes had the annexations taken effect.

Jesse Fox Mayshark, spokesman for Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, said the lost potential revenue would have been “substantial,” although no estimate has been made. Mayshark said Rogero had not attempted any involuntary annexations and her predecessor, Bill Haslam, now governor, had only attempted a few in his first term.

The court orders issued by three Chancery Court judges require the city to pay court costs in all 182 cases. The first basic filing fee in such cases is $186.50, which in 182 cases would be $33,943. Subsequent costs can vary widely, depending on proceedings in each case.

Emison said his “guess” at costs would be “several hundred dollars” on average. Mayshark said the city’s attorney had not calculated the costs yet.

Owners of the properties involved had filed lawsuits against ordinances passed by the Knoxville City Council for annexation of their homes or businesses that had never been decided. The city’s attorneys had continued to oppose the challenges to annexation, Mayshark said, until the Legislature stepped into the picture.

In its 2014 session, the General Assembly enacted a law that prohibited annexation by ordinance, although the law did not take full effect until May 15 of this year. Citizens for Home Rule, which acted as a coordinator in the Knoxville cases, agreed with city attorneys not to pursue further legal action in the pending cases until after that date, Emison said. But after that date — which followed the April adjournment of the legislative session, during which proposals to repeal or modify the law failed — CHR moved to have all 182 cases dismissed.
Continue reading

Legislators ready to authorize ‘de-annexation’ from TN cities

A bill allowing residents of parts of cities to “de-annex” their territory from the city, by majority votes in referendums called by voter-initiated petitions, won approval of a key subcommittee in the state House Tuesday.

From the Commercial Appeal report:

House Bill 779 sets out the process and requirements for de-annexation from municipalities. Current law allows cities to contract their borders by ordinances approved by the city council or Board of Aldermen, but the bill empowers residents of an area to initiate and approve the process in Tennessee for the first time. Twenty-six states allow de-annexation in some form, according to the Tennessee Municipal League.

The bill follows last year’s enactment by the Tennessee legislature of the most sweeping revision of annexation law since the 1950s, when municipalities were given authority to annex new territory without approval of the residents being annexed. The 2014 law requires approval of residents being annexed, either by petition or referendum.

If approved, a de-annexation referendum must be held if at least 10 percent of the registered voters in an area sign petitions requesting a referendum, which is held only within the de-annexation zone. The zone must be an entire area that was annexed at one time, not parts of it, and the de-annexation cannot leave a “doughnut hole” of newly unincorporated territory within the city limits.

If a majority of voters in the zone approve separation from the city, taxpayers in the zone remain responsible for the share of municipal taxes dedicated to repaying whatever bond debt the city incurred to extend services there.

The City of Memphis and the Tennessee Municipal League, which represents municipal governments statewide, opposed the bill, which won 7-5 approval in the House Finance Subcommittee and now moves to the full committee.

Note: The bill cleared the Senate committee system last month and awaits a floor vote under sponsorship of Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson. The House bill is sponsored by Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah.

TACIR makes recommends changes to TN annexation laws

A state policy study group recommends further changes in Tennessee’s municipal annexation laws after last year’s landmark passage of a law requiring approval by impacted residents before towns and cities can annex new territory, reports the Commercial Appeal.

The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR), headed by a board of state and local officials, issued its report Friday. Its recommendations to the state legislature include:

* Allowing cities to annex land not adjacent to the city, to support economic development, without annexing those in between who don’t want to be taken into the city.

* Developing a less costly alternative to public referendums, while preserving the 2014 law’s mandate requiring consent of residents of the proposed annexation area, such as petitions.

* Allowing nonresidents who own land in the area proposed for annexation to participate in the decision.

* Requiring the state-mandated county-wide growth plans to be reviewed and updated. The plans were required by another landmark law, the 1998 growth planning act, and are now more than ten years old.

* Clarifying what constitutes agricultural land for purposes of annexation. The 2014 annexation law prohibits cities from annexing “property used primarily for agricultural purposes” without written consent of owners but doesn’t define the meaning precisely.

* Legislative consideration of other issues, including cities’ plans of services for annexed areas.

Note: The full report is HERE.