Annexation Public Hearing for Huntsville City Council
The Huntsville City Council had a public hearing for the proposed annexation of over 7,000 acres outside of the current city limits. There were seven proposed areas for annexation, however citizens only testified in opposition to area A which is approximately 1,155 acers. Area A is located northwest of the current city limits, near Interstate 45 and State Highway 75 North.
The first person to testify against the annexation of area A into the City of Huntsville was Danny Billingsley in behalf of his mother who owns property and a building that is leased to the Texas Depart of Corrections. Billingsley said, “She is 98 years old and that is her sole source of income.” Billingsley testified, “I calculated what that would mean for my mother. The tax on that piece of property, if it is annexed will cost her $5,000 a year to get nothing.”
Billingsley also testified that it was unlikely that the city would ever provide city services to the property since the business across the street, “S&S Pipe was annexed in 1995 and they still have no city services.”
Billingsley explained that TXDOT takes care of the road, Crabbs Prairie fire department is closer than Huntsville Fire Department, and the Walker County Sheriff’s Department does a great job of policing the area. He also described how the water is supplied by the special utility district. “So, there is nothing that the city has to offer out there, that’s going to help that piece of property” Billingsley said, “That building was built in 1985, and it didn’t need city cervices then and doesn’t need city services now.”
Billingsley described the difficulty and cost for the city to provide services to this property. For example, he said that the sewer for that area is 5,600 feet from Wire Road and his mom’s building is another probably 750 feet past that.
“It appears to me and a lot more people, this is strictly a money grab. Annex land and get money” Billingsley speculated. Finally, Billingsley asked, “Does anybody out there think it is OK for a city to annex a piece of property and charge you $5,000 and give you nothing in return? Does anybody think that is right?”
The third person to testify was Champe Miller who said that he had two pieces of property in the proposed annex area A. One piece of property has an agricultural (ag) exemption for tax purposes, but the city was not considering annexing that property. Instead, the city was only considering annexing his home and the one acre around his home inside the ag exemption.
“So, you are going to annex my house in the middle of an ag deferral, that’s what you’re actually doing” Miller said. Miller also joked that the only subdivisions out there were three or four ant-beds.
Miller testified, “I think that was an error. I think that this was a rush job, because you guys were trying to beat, of course Greg Abbott, when he signed in the new statute on the 24th of May.”
The Texas House had passed House Bill (HB) 347, which essentially prevents cities from annexing areas against the will of the landowners and residents on April 9, 2019 and the Senate had passed HB 347 on May 14, 2019. Because both chambers passed the legislation by a vote of more than two-thirds, the governor had 10 days to sign the legislation or it would become effective by operation of law on May 24, 2019.
Governor Greg Abbott signed the law on June 3, 2019 after the law had become effective on May 24, 2019. However, cities could annex land before the law became effective by adopting a resolution prior to the effective date of the bill.
The Huntsville City Council conducted workshops for annexation in front of the city council on March 5th, 2019, and on April 16, 2019. A resolution adopted on May 7, 2019 set the date, time, and place for these public hearings.
A resolution adopted on May 21 authorized staff to prepare service plans for each area of the proposed annexation just three days before the law would become effective on May 24, 2019. A second public hearing is scheduled to take place on July 16th, and the ordinance to execute annexation is scheduled to be read for the first time on August 6, 2019.
Miller said, “I have lived out there now for 26 years, and I have always supported the county and the city. I don’t think that this annex program is a good thing for us, especially we people that are in the outlying areas.”
A second public hearing is scheduled to take place at 6:00 pm on July 16, 2019 during the next scheduled Huntsville City Council meeting.