City of Huntsville Threatened with Annexation Lawsuit (WCP) 8/26/2019
The Huntsville City Council voted seven-to-one to proceed forward with annexation by setting the date for the second reading of the annexation ordinances. The date for the second reading was set for Tuesday, October 1, 2019, at the regularly scheduled city council meeting.
However, the city is not moving forward with annexation without opposition. Attorney Bret L. Strong, who represents landowners in area A, addressed the city council and threatened the city with a lawsuit if the city would not pull the annexation or would not come to an agreement with the landowners.
Strong commented that this annexation plan, which was historic is size, did not follow the law. Strong said, “You guys are potentially annexing over 7,000 acres of property, one of the larger annexations in the history of Texas by the way, and I just don’t think it has been done in the manner that our law requires.”
The Huntsville City Council is working to annex over 7,500 acres total from seven separate areas, named areas A through G. If annexation were successful, the city would expand by more than 30%, which is near the limit of 33% by law.
Strong informed the city council that there were several reasons why the city council should not proceed with the annexations. Strong said, “There are some serious questions I have with regard to how this was done, both from the standpoint of procedure as well as, under the old statute and the new statute, whether those procedures have been followed.”
Area A consists of approximately 1,155 acres on the northwest edge of the current Huntsville City Limit and straddles I-45. Strong is representing three landowners in the area A, GOAB Investments (Mr. Billingsley), John Little, and Champe Miller.
On May 24, 2019, House Bill 347 became law and it prohibits cities from annexing properties without the consent of the landowners or a majority of residents, however cities that adopted an annexation resolution before May 24, 2019 could annex property under the previous annexation laws. The City of Huntsville passed their annexation resolution of May 21, 2019, just three days before the new law would make this annexation virtually impossible.
Strong said, “I’m going to tell you that our clients are avid. They do not want to be annexed unless they come to some sort of understanding with the city, and they will take action. I’m here to tell you that not as a threat.”
Councilmember Ronald Allen (Ward 3) also spoke in opposition to the annexation plan, and he was the only council member to vote against setting the date for the second reading. Allen said, “I can’t vote to have a second reading. This annex plan has been one big screw-up since this city tried to rush the process, trying to beat the new annexation law which passed by over two-thirds majority of our state legislature. If this city council wants to annex property, they need to take their time and thoroughly review their plans and follow the new annexation law.”