Tag Archives: annexation

Court of Appeals: Chancellor Jim Kyle should have recused himself from annexation case

Newly elected Shelby County Chancellor Jim Kyle erred when he failed to recuse himself from a case related to the Southwind annexation, according to a ruling handed down Thursday by the Tennessee Court of Appeals, reports the Commercial Appeal.

When Kyle heard the case, which he inherited after Shelby County Chancellor Oscar Carr recused himself, the recently elected chancellor was still winding down several cases in which he represented the city of Memphis as an attorney with the firm Domico Kyle.

“In this case, we conclude that there is reasonable basis for questioning the judge’s impartiality due to his current representation of the city of Memphis in other litigation,” the ruling says.

At the start of the Nov. 4 hearing, Kyle informed attorneys for both sides that he had a potential conflict and gave them two days to consider any objections. Despite an objection lodged by the group suing to block annexation, Kyle decided the conflict did not require him to recuse himself and heard the case anyway.

The appeals court ruling is only the latest legal chapter in the long, troubled history of Memphis’ push to annex the Southwind community.

The original annexation deal was approved by the Memphis City Council in 2006 on the condition that the annexation would not take effect until the last day of 2013. But, as the annexation date approached, residents successfully sued to prevent the consent order from being enforced.

House sends bill banning ‘forced annexation’ to the governor

The House gave final legislative approval today to a bill that will block Tennessee towns and cities from annexing new areas without approval of voters residing in the annexed area.

The billl was approved on a 85-4 vote in the House and now goes to Gov. Bill Haslam for his expected signature. The measure had passed the Senate 27-1 on March 27.
The House sponsor, Republican Rep. Mike Carter of Ooltewah, hailed passage as an “amazing” example of average citizens triumphing in the legislative process.

“This has been a true citizens movement,” he said. “There have been no lobbyists, no special interests or big money involved.”

The move comes after the General Assembly last year put a moratorium on so-called “forced annexation” that expires in May and called on the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations to study the matter.

TACIR made no recommendation and asked authorization for another year of study. The bill (SB2464) includes that authorization, though the study will be focused on other aspects of annexation law.

Tennessee has allowed annexation by ordinance, dubbed “forced annexation” by critics, since 1955 and there have been unsuccessful crusades to repeal it for many years – some inspired by Knoxville’s growth in the 1980s and 1990s.

“The City of Knoxville was one of the worst abusers of annexation,” Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, said during the Senate debate.
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Bill ending ‘forced annexation’ approved by Senate

The state Senate approved a bill Thursday to require voter approval by referendums in areas that towns and cities want to annex into their city limits, reports The Commercial Appeal.

If the House of Representatives follows suit next Wednesday and the bill becomes law, it would end six decades in which Tennessee cities could annex new territory by passage of ordinances by city councils and without referendums. Before 1955, annexations were approved by the state legislature at the request of municipalities.

Annexation has been the main vehicle for growth by the City of Memphis, but there and across the state, it has aroused opposition by annexed residents who often fought long court battles to block annexation, usually unsuccessfully. Shelby County’s municipalities have annexation “reserve” areas they eventually planned to take into their city limits.

…Tennessee is one of six states that allows annexation without referendums in most or at least many circumstances, along with Indiana, Nebraska, Kansas, Idaho and Texas, according to a study by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, or TACIR.

Tennessee lawmakers last year approved a one-year moratorium on all new municipal annexations by ordinance, unless requested by a majority of the affected property owners. During the moratorium, which ends next month, TACIR analyzed annexation issues and issued an interim report in December that asked for another year for further study.

Senate Bill 2464, which won a 27-1 Senate vote, extends the moratorium through April 2015, and directs TACIR, a state government research agency, to finish its study.

But the bill also repeals the state’s “annexation by ordinance” statutes at the conclusion of the moratorium next year.

Bill mandating referendum on all city annexations clears House panel

Tennessee towns and cities would be banned from annexing any new territory without approval in a referendum of voters living within the area under legislation approved by a House panel on Wednesday.

“It is beyond me why.. we are one of just three states that does not allow people to vote on whether they want to their home and their land taken in by a city,” said Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, sponsor of HB2371.

Carter had proposed similar legislation last year, but backed of pushing for passage after legislators approved a one-year statewide moratorium on annexations, except those requested by property owners, while the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations studied the issue.

TACIR has failed to come up with any recommendations and its board instead has voted to urge an extension of the moratorium – scheduled to expire in May – for another year while more studies are made.

“I would hope that you would consider letting TACIR do its work and we would consider .. getting the right answer for everyone,” Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, told during debate.

Carter said he wants the study to continue, focusing on revising rules for establishing “growth boundaries” for each city in the state, but has decided to pursue his bill now.

“No study in the world is going to change the right to vote,” he said. “This (bill) is not stopping annexation. It’s stopping forced annexation.”

No member of the House Local Government Subcommittee spoke against the bill, though Parkinson and some others voiced misgivings.

It was approved on voice vote and sent on the full House Local Government Committee. Parkinson was the only member of the panel asking to be recorded as voting against the measure.

Rep. Dale Carr, R-Sevierville, said that in his home town the city has “given out services to people outside the city” and he would like see TACIR look into a fair way of dealing with such situations. On occasions, Carr said, people living on one side of a street that serves as a boundary may be treated differently than those on another.

As a former city councilman, Carr said he can understand cities’ viewpoint, but he also understands views of constituents supporting the right to vote.
“I am between rock and a hard place,” Carr said.

The Tennessee Municipal League, which represents city governments statewide, opposes the bill in a belief that resolving disputes over annexation should be part of a broader approach that can balance matters in a “complex issue,” said TML Deputy Director Chad Jenkins after the vote.

Current law allows annexation simply by a city council adopting an ordinance. Carter’s bill ends that practice unless a property owner asks to be annexed.
The bill calls for an annexation referendum to include voting by all residents of an area to be annexed, along with owners of property within the area even if they live elsewhere.

The measure has 70 representatives signed on as co-sponsors in the House. In the Senate, the bill is sponsored by Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson.

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.

Carter to push ahead with annexation restrictions despite probable delay in TACIR report

State Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, says he will renew his push to require voters’ consent before cities can annex their property, even though a state study panel says it may need more time for its annexation recommendations.

Further from the Chattanooga TFP:

“Absolutely,” the Hamilton County lawmaker said last week. “Only death will stop that. And then somebody else will just pick it up. I think the prospects [for passage] are excellent. People have woken up.”

In this year’s legislative session, Carter and Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, sponsored a bill aimed at giving voters a voice in annexation. Carter, a former adviser to then-Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, cited a spate of annexations initiated by former Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield.

Under the state’s landmark 1998 Growth Policy Act, Tennessee cities can annex by ordinance with no voter input. Town and city officials enjoy that power and strongly opposed the Carter bill. As the legislative session expired, lawmakers asked the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) to study and make recommendations on annexation and how the state’s landmark 1998 Growth Policy Act has worked.

TACIR staff last week presented their 115-page study to commission members, who are drawn from the ranks of state and local officials. But TACIR’s report included no recommendations on annexation, leaving the legislators, county mayor and city mayors at a loss. The Tennessee General Assembly session starts Jan. 14.

The commission chairman, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, and others said the panel may have to request more time but will meet again Dec. 14 and seek areas they can agree on. Norris said TACIR members have until Nov. 6 to forward specific areas to consider.

Those are likely to include revisions in the planning process to require cities to update their urban growth plans. Another topic could be the current 15-year cap on counties’ right to receive local option sales taxes and beer wholesale taxes from territory annexed by cities.

Several TACIR members questioned whether Carter’s bill would do away with the entire Growth Policy Act. Carter said it would not and that he supports the planning process.

AG: No, You Can’t Have a ‘De-Annexation’ Referendum

State Attorney General Robert E. Cooper says Cordova area residents have no legal authority to force a public referendum on de-annexing their subdivision from Memphis, reports the Commercial Appeal.
The opinion confirms a similar legal opinion by State Election Coordinator Mark Goins last month that halted efforts by a group of Cordova residents to call a de-annexation referendum in their area this summer.
Cooper’s opinion references neither Cordova nor Memphis by name. But State Rep. Steve McManus, who represents the Cordova area, requested the opinion on behalf of the residents.
McManus and de-annexation supporters met Thursday night at the Old Cordova Community Center and decided to continue their petition drive despite Cooper’s opinion.
Josh Fox, head of the Cordova’s Voices website and spokesman for the de-annexation effort, said the group hopes to get 40,000 to 45,000 signatures, then take those to the City Council and to the state legislature. “That way, we can stand up there and say, ‘This is what the people who put you in office want.'”

Some ‘Governor Signs a Bill’ Stories

Gov. Bill Haslam officially signed scores of bills into law last week, ranging from a $32.8 billion state budget. This week, he’s doing ‘ceremonial signings’ to spotlight selected legislation.
Here are some links to stories on signings, both regular and ceremonial.
On a bill lowering the sales tax on groceries from 5.25 percent to 5 percent, HERE.
On the ‘distillery bill,’ which changes rules for manufacturing liquor in Tennessee — perhaps most notably for Chattanooga whiskey and Gatlinburg moonshine. HERE.
On a bill imposing a 13-month moratorium on city annexations of residential and agricultural property. HERE.

Annexation Moratorium Now in Effect

A 13-month partial moratorium on property annexations by Tennessee towns and cities is now in effect after Gov. Bill Haslam signed the measure brought by two Hamilton County legislators, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
“I very much appreciate the governor signing the bill in that it has the minimum restrictions on the cities and it does not restrict the growth of or development in commercial, industry and retail areas,” Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, the House sponsor, said Monday. “It only protects homes and farm property used primarily for agricultural process. It only protects ma and pa and ma and pa’s farm.”
Carter emphasized commercial, industry and retail property is “specifically exempted.”
But Margaret Mahery, executive director of the Tennessee Municipal League, said towns and cities remain nervous about the moratorium’s impact on cities’ business recruitment efforts.
“My main concern is economic development and opportunities that might come along this year [and the moratorium] prevent a city from helping” make that happen, Mahery said.
Noting that job creation is one of Haslam’s top issues, Mahery said, “There could be some damage done. Don’t know where it’s going to be, but the possibility lies there.”
Haslam, a former Knoxville mayor, “deferred [to legislators] on the legislation, and after reviewing the bill in its final form, he was comfortable with the language,” said David Smith, the governor’s spokesman.

Annexation Moratorium Up for House, Senate Votes

City annexations across most of Tennessee would be stopped dead in their tracks for up to 27 months under bills scheduled for final consideration this week in the General Assembly, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
The bills are a compromise from initial plans by Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, and Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, to require voter consent before cities could annex territory.
After cities and their lobbyists objected fiercely to the original bill, the legislation now blocks annexations of unwilling property owners while a comprehensive study of Tennessee annexation laws is conducted by June 30, 2015.
The bill’s effects are back-dated to April 1 to block cities such as Collegedale, which in February began annexing dozens of properties in response to the original bill.
…Watson’s bill is up for consideration this afternoon on the Senate floor. He said he’s not sure whether he will move on it or wait to see what happens to Carter’s bill in the Calendar and Rules Committee, the last hurdle before hitting the House floor.
Carter, a freshman lawmaker, has been driving the legislation, adjusting it to accommodate legislative critics.
“Things look good,” said Carter, an attorney who was a top assistant to former Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, now Gov. Bill Haslam’s deputy.
“Things look good,” said Carter, an attorney who was a top assistant to former Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, now Gov. Bill Haslam’s deputy.
“I think we’re going to make it to the floor, and I think we’re going to win the vote on the floor,” he said, adding that little differences in the House and Senate bills would need ironing out.
Carter’s amended bill includes the moratorium but only for residential and farm properties, not commercial properties. The study would be conducted by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.
The bill has its origins in Chattanooga’s recent annexation efforts. Carter said he and Ramsey managed to stop three annexations by Mayor Ron Littlefield, but seven others went through.
All were within Chattanooga’s urban growth boundary created under a 1998 state law aimed at providing for orderly growth rather than simply revenue-snatching land grab
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