The city of Denison held an emergency meeting of the City Council Thursday morning to address annexation amid statewide reforms. The meeting comes with the passage of House Bill 347, which imposes annexations reforms including those made without the consent of property owners.
Following a closed, executive session, the council voted to direct the city manager to prepare service plans for properties adjacent to the city ahead of the implementation of the bill. This includes three parcels in heavy growth areas along the U.S. Highway 75 corridor.
“The City has much invested, financially and otherwise, in newly developed areas that border our city limits,” City Manager Jud Rex said in a press release issued Thursday. “It is important that we protect the new development and manage future growth. The City wants quality growth and desires to grow responsibility. HB347 would restrict our ability to do so without passage of this resolution.”
City officials with Denison declined request for an interview related to Thursday’s council meeting.
Areas that were specifically discussed in Thursday’s meeting include: land west of U.S. Highway 69 near the Hwy. 75 interchange, areas along FM 84 between Hwy. 75 and the Preston Harbor development and all land west of Hwy. 75 in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction between FM 691 and FM 84.
HB 347, which was sent the the governor’s desk on May 14, streamlined language in state regulations on annexations and removed a tier system previously used in the process of annexation. Under the bill, cities like Denison will no longer be able to conduct non-consent annexations.
“HB 347 eliminates forced annexation statewide, giving all property owners the same right to consent to annexation,” State Sen. Brian Birdwell, who sponsored the bill, said on his personal Facebook page. “The success of this bill is a reflection of the hard work of my constituents, and constituents throughout the state, that have fought tirelessly to be granted the same rights and protections extended (and) currently afforded to property owners living in more populous counties.”
These limitations are expected to take place upon the signing of the bill by Gov. Greg Abbott or May 25, whichever occurs first. However, the bill contains an exemption for cities that have directed the city manager to prepare service plans for areas on or before that date.
In an interview with the Herald Democrat on Thursday, Mayor Janet Gott said the city previously discussed directing Rex to create the service plans during Monday night’s city council meeting as part of a closed, executive session.
Gott said the action cleared up the city’s map by allowing it to clear up the “doughnut holes” — unincorporated areas that are surrounded by the city. However, with the deadline looming, the city needed to take action now.
“The bottom line is that the city had the right before House Bill 347, and by today’s action we still have that right,” Gott said in a phone interview.
Gott stressed this action did not directly annex any property into Denison, adding that any annexations are likely months away. Gott said she was uncertain exactly how much land Thursday’s action affected.
“It is the vision of the city of Denison to be a community of choice with an exceptional quality of life, quality housing choices, ample opportunities for employment, and a rich and varied shopping experience,” Gott said in Thursday’s press release. “It is the city’s intent, and in the best interest of the public, that we maintain all the tools necessary to achieve these goals. Annexation is one of those tools.”
Meanwhile Sherman officials do not anticipate the need for similar action in the coming days. Nate Strauch, community and support services manager, said Sherman will wait until the bill becomes law before addressing it. The city has only had consensual annexations in recent years, and ultimately the recent legislation would have little impact on the city’s course.
“The legal hoops were already too difficult to jump through, so the bill won’t change anything for Sherman,” he said.