On August 15th, Governor Abbott signed Senate Bill 6 into law. SB6 limited future annexation methods available to cities. The law was set to take effect in December of 2017, providing a short window for cities to conduct annexations under the current law.
On August 28th, a majority of Council voted to initiate the annexation of approximately 3,800 acres under current state statutes. This action was taken to meet timing requirements prior to the December change in legislation. However, as has been repeatedly stated, the final decision to support actual annexation would be reserved until all due diligence by our City staff and Council was completed, and a vote taken on November 15th.
In that spirit, over the past several months we have worked with staff to understand the fiscal impact this annexation would have on our current residents and those in the ETJ facing annexation. We also participated in 3 public hearings in which we heard ETJ residents express their concerns.
Repeatedly during the public hearing process, we heard residents convey their desire to maintain the country lifestyle they were currently enjoying and not be burdened with the addition of City property taxes.
In consideration of all information, I decided that the only annexation path forward acceptable to me, would be one that offered a 45-year deferment alternative to ETJ residents. To accomplish this, I asked staff to prepare a Development Agreement that would provide both development oversight to the city in the event that an ETJ property “use” changes, as well as provide security and a guarantee to ETJ residents that if the law was again to change, and similar annexation methods were available to the City, those residents were protected from such annexation for the balance of 45 years. I expressed this in the public hearing on October 25th and received a very favorable response from the Council members that were in attendance at that meeting, as well as most of the residents present.
Staff drafted an agreement that satisfied the concerns discussed and presented it to ETJ residents, many of whom were represented by legal counsel. Sadly, it is now apparent to me that we are not able to agree on terms of that agreement.
In my opinion, ETJ counsel requested vested rights that are overly expansive and inconsistent with state law. They also requested terms that are contrary to Inter-Local Agreement 1445 as it relates to permitting and platting in the ETJ. 0ne of those contradictions was the proposed vested rights of land owners to build one home per acre on their property without platting or permitting. The proposed vested rights would also allow those dwellings to be built, circumventing current city building codes, including life safety considerations. Conversely, the agreement proposed by the city would require city permits and inspections of newly constructed structures. Their legal counsel also proposed a concept of “existing structures” which would allow the construction and/or expansion of any structure based solely on the owner’s development plan. Also, the concept of “planned structures” was put forth, granting owner’s the right to convert their current use to any use they had previously contemplated (planned) without triggering the Development Agreement oversight or annexation. Some of the “Planned structures” identified, included Mobile home parks, foster care homes, mixed use residential, multi-family, 3 story commercial buildings, retail strip centers, residential subdivisions, dirt bike and 4-wheeler race courses and event venues, to name some.
These demands are inconsistent with the spirit of the agreement discussed at the public hearing on October 25th.
While the legal counsel did not represent all ETJ residents (I believe they represented approximately 45 property owners), without a consistent 45-year deferment plan acceptable to all ETJ residents, I will not support annexation of any parcel.