From Ending Forced Annexation in Texas: Hon. Jess Fields & James Quintero, TPPF, Center for Local Governance (July, 2015)
A Proposal for City-Initiated Annexation with Fewer Than 200 Residents
Because of the many kinds of annexations that are conceivable, it makes sense to split the annexation process up in statute into smaller and larger segments. In moving toward a consent-driven process, the Legislature should also recognize that not all populations need the same kind of consent. For a larger area, it may be feasible to seek an election. For a smaller area with fewer than 200 residents, it is not necessary.
Therefore, the proposal recommended for such small-scale annexations is to use a process of seeking consent by petition. As with voluntary annexation, there is no need to overly complicate the process and take longer than necessary. However, in the interest of respecting the rights of the people who are to be annexed, it is important to allow enough time for either consent to be granted or for people to decide to reject a proposed annexation.
To that end, the core process should take no more than a few months, allowing the bulk of the time for the residents to consider granting consent, or denying it.
The following is the proposed procedure for a municipality to annex an area containing no more than 199 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 marks the beginning of a 90-day period in which the informational and petition gathering processes shall be contained.
- The first 30 days 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 hearing and forthcoming petition process, as well as information regarding service provision after annexation.
- A 60-day petition collection period shall follow the 30-day informational process. The municipality may solicit petitions by going door to door, mailing notices, and making phone calls. However, the petitions must be signed in person.
- A resident of the area to be annexed who is not registered to vote at the beginning of the petition process may be allowed to sign the petition in the affirmative or negative if registered to vote at least 30 days prior to signing the petition; however, the municipality may not register voters in order to gather more signatures.
- 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 concurrent to the process for qualified resident voters, 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.
- Those who sign the petition may give written notice in person, prior to the petition period closing, that they wishes to remove their name from the petition.
- If the petition process closes and a sufficient number of signatures from qualified voters and nonresident property owners (if necessary) have not been obtained, the annexation process is closed, and the city may not propose the same area for annexation for a period of at least one year.
- If the petition process closes and a sufficient number of signatures have been obtained from qualified voters and non-resident property owners (if necessary), then the city shall finalize the annexation process by holding one more public hearing and then an additional final meeting for deliberation, and final passage, at least 10 business days apart. Additionally, the public hearing shall not be held until all property owners have been notified of the results of the annexation petition process.
Of note, property owners who are not residents nonetheless have a right to their property that ought to be recognized and protected within the annexation process. For this reason, such non-resident property owners are considered within the seeking of consent if they represent more than half of the properties sought for annexation. This is a reasonable compromise between always seeking to include the property owners who are not residents and never including them. Under current law, non-residents are not considered. This proposal is equitable for cities, residents, and property owners alike. This also speeds up the annexation process such that it may occur in less than four months, as long as consent is obtained.