From Ending Forced Annexation in Texas: Hon. Jess Fields & James Quintero, TPPF, Center for Local Governance (July, 2015)
Procedures for City-Initiated Annexation of Area Containing 200 or More Residents
For a larger population, a petition becomes more challenging. In this instance, it is reasonable to hold an election as is required by many states with consent-driven annexation processes. If a municipality wishes to annex an area larger than 200 residents, it ought to seek an election.
To that end, an election should be held, but not on a holiday or some strange date when no one is able to participate. Instead, it behooves the municipality to hold the election on a date that is standard. Under current Texas law, the May municipal election date, which is the second Saturday of May, or the November election date, which is the first Tuesday in November, are the standard election dates.
Municipalities seeking to annex 200 or more residents should seek consent in an election occurring on one of these standard dates, allowing for the maximum participation of those residents, but potentially allowing for less money to be spent than would be if an election was not already being held on that day.
Importantly, municipalities cannot hold the election sooner than 90 days from the passage of the resolution of intent to annex; this allows for a full public debate within the area proposed for annexation, and provides time for public hearings. A municipality should hold at least two—one in the first month, and one in the second 60-day period. If municipalities wish to hold more, it would be their decision to do so, but they would not be required to or prevented from that broader level of engagement.
The following is the proposed procedure for a municipality to annex an area containing 200 or more residents:
- The municipality shall pass a resolution clearly establishing intent to annex the area, and including detailed descriptions and maps of the properties to be annexed, as well as a full description of the services to be provided after annexation, using the existing inventory of services already required by statute. The resolution shall also establish the date of election for the annexation.
- The annexation election shall take place in a fixed polling place or places within the area proposed for annexation. If a suitable location is not available, it shall take place in the nearest available location within the municipal limits.
- The annexation election may only take place on the May or the November regular election dates. The municipality may choose either, however, the election date must be no sooner than 90 days from when the resolution is passed calling for it.
- The first 30 days after the resolution is passed shall contain at least one public hearing to be held by the municipality in the area to be annexed, not sooner than 21 days and not further than 30 days after the passage of the resolution initiating the annexation process. Within seven days of the passage of the resolution, notice shall be mailed to every property owner of the annexation hearings, election, as well as information regarding service provision after annexation.
- An additional public hearing shall be held in the 60-day period following the first 30 days; between days 31 and 90 after the passage of the resolution.
- The election shall only be open to qualified voters of the area proposed for annexation.
- If the voting age population in the area proposed for annexation (that is, the number of persons residing in the area who are at least 18 years of age and in good standing to register to vote, whether or not they are indeed registered), do not own at least 50.1 percent of the total land area of the area to be annexed, then at least 50.1 percent of the nonresident property owners must also consent to the annexation through a petition process during days 31 through 90 after the resolution is passed, except that the non-resident property owners need not be registered to vote in the same county or counties where the annexation is taking place. Additionally, they may provide verified signatures electronically for expedience. The municipality may collect these petitions only between days 31 and 90 after the resolution has been passed. The municipality may solicit petitions by going door to door, mailing notices, and making phone calls, however, the petitions must be signed in person.
- Once the election has been held, all property owners must be notified of the result of the election. If at least 50.1 percent of qualified voters in the area proposed for annexation have voted in the affirmative, and a petition of non-resident property owners has been signed by a sufficient number in the affirmative, a public hearing shall be held and, at least 10 business days after, a meeting for deliberation and final passage of the annexation process as well.
The election process for seeking consent to annex, which is used by many states, need not be overly burdensome. To that end, once consent is obtained, the annexation is done. It does not require additional steps, beyond a simple public hearing and then final passage by the governing body. As with the petition process, the election process of seeking consent can be accomplished in as little as four months, and yet still allows for full resident and property owner consent to be considered in the annexation process, whether there are 201 or 20,000 residents involved.