Six Texas Counties Reject Forced Annexation

By Anthony SanFilippo

Homeowners in some Texas counties no longer have to worry about their property being unwillfully incorporated into a neighboring city after voters made a strong statement at the polls on Election Day.

Voters in Parker, Palo Pinto, Wise, Johnson, Freestone and Atascosa counties approved ballot measures that would change the status of their counties from Tier 1 to Tier 2 when it comes to forced annexation. The outcome was supported by a significant voter education effort spearheaded by the Texas Association of REALTORS®.

Tier 1 counties can have cities incorporate land outside their borders without the approval of the residents of that land, or neighborhood. Texas is one of the last states in the U.S. that allows for this type of action. It’s called forced annexation. However, Tier 2 counties have far more stringent rules on annexation – namely it requires permission from property owners in the land to be annexed approving the new incorporation.

Annexation has both pros and cons.

Residents in annexed areas will now have access to services such as law enforcement and city utilities, but they also would be subject to new regulations on their land as well as city taxes that didn’t apply to them before the annexation.

Now, the residents in these six counties can decide for themselves if they want to be annexed into a new city or stay in unincorporated land.

In 2017, Texas legislators passed a law that put Texas counties in two categories for annexation purposes, based on their population. However, the law provides Tier 1 county residents a process to become a Tier 2 county by petitioning to include a proposition on their ballot.

Voters passed these tier changes overwhelmingly, with an average approval of 75.5%.

The first step for a Tier 1 county to become a Tier 2 county is for at least 10% of the registered voters in the county to sign a petition to put that request on the ballot. Then, if the ballot measure passes, the county will be considered Tier 2 and the affected residents will be able to vote on future annexation.

Voters in the six aforementioned counties passed these tier changes overwhelmingly, with an average approval of 75.5%.

And considering that success, it’s likely going to lead to more changes across the state as several more counties are looking to add similar measures to their May 4, 2019 ballots.

Additionally, forced annexation could become a thing of the past in the entirety of the Lone Star State as the Texas Legislature is expected to consider legislation that would eliminate the practice altogether.

State Rep. Phil King added the amendment to the 2017 bill that allowed communities to get petition signatures to get these measures onto a ballot.

“It passed overwhelmingly everywhere,” King told the Weatherford Democrat. “Many other counties around the state are working toward being on the ballot next election cycle. I think this reflects Texans’ high esteem for property rights. It wasn’t a vote against cities, but rather a vote for property owners. I look forward to discussions this session about possibly extending this statewide since our voters have made it clear they do not support forced annexation.”


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