From Ending Forced Annexation in Texas: Hon. Jess Fields & James Quintero, TPPF, Center for Local Governance (July, 2015)
An Equitable Solution for Annexation Reform in Texas
Proponents and opponents of the present annexation situation may never completely agree as to what constitutes an ideal compromise. Municipalities are unlikely to voluntarily give up their authority to annex involuntarily, and residents in unincorporated areas outside of municipalities have little recourse to defend against annexation. This means that, in Texas’ case, a statewide solution is necessary—as has been already passed by many other states.
This does not mean that residents and property owners in unincorporated areas, particularly those within the Extraterritorial Jurisdiction of cities, should have complete control over the annexation process. The municipality itself may not have “rights,” but the citizens therein do, and they may seek policies that create a desire to annex. Where the compromise, so to speak, must come in is that these residents, through their city, cannot violate the rights of property owners in unincorporated areas.
Therefore, an equitable solution for annexation reform in Texas must include several key components:
- It must protect the rights of property owners and residents in unincorporated areas, particularly within the Extraterritorial Jurisdiction;
- It must allow cities to initiate the annexation process;
- It must allow annexation to occur in a timely fashion, in other words, without undue delays.
The third point is particularly important, because under current law, both voluntary and involuntary annexation proceedings tend to take a very long time and require a great deal of bureaucratic wrangling. This should not be the case; if annexation is done in a proper manner—that is, with the consent of those being annexed— there should be no reason for excessive statutory delay. This also allows cities to have more opportunities to annex even if annexation becomes, in a sense, more “difficult” because of some requirement of consent. Additionally, it provides an opportunity for voluntary annexations—those initiated by the property owner— to be significantly shortened in duration, due to the pre-existing consent of the property owner(s) seeking annexation.
In the following sections, equitable annexation reform will be explained according to three distinct situations that it covers, which likely account for all instances of municipal annexation: voluntary annexation initiated by property owners, annexation initiated by municipalities of areas with low population (fewer than 200 residents), and annexation initiated by municipalities of areas with high population (200 or more residents).