“The power of kings and magistrates is nothing else, but what is only derivative, transferred and committed to them in trust from the people… in whom the power yet remains fundamentally, and cannot be taken from them, without a violation of their natural birthright.” ~John Milton, Paradise Lost
Consent of the governed is one of the founding principles of our nation and a birthright of the Republic of Texas. Every inch of the territory that is Texas today was fought for by those who engaged in a fight for freedom and independence.
Why then would the Texas city of Belton think that a forced annexation of over 1,300 acres in Bell County would be accepted without a fight? Or that a city with 20,000 residents (some made so by previous municipal land grabs) can forcibly annex property in a county of over 340,000 Texans without their consent?
On December 1, a new law extending property rights protections to all Texans goes into effect. Senate Bill 6, municipal annexation reform signed into law in August, reduces the authority of Texas cities to forcibly annex land without the consent of those they seek to govern.
Though Bell County residents won’t be immediately protected, SB 6 lets counties like Bell with under 500,000 residents vote to opt in to the increased protections.
Why then is Belton racing to annex property south of the city a mere 48 hours before this new law goes into effect?
In its proposed involuntary annexation of 1,775 acres in 2016, for example, the city’s timeline was 113 days. Yet Belton City Council initiated its latest forced annexation on September 21, hoping to conclude the whole process by November 28 – just 69 days.
What’s the real motivation behind this latest land grab? Belton’s 2016 Growth Management Plan claims that annexation is meant to “promote economic development, facilitate long range planning,” and “protect future development.” However, Belton officials are quoted as saying that south Belton is “prime for development” as a possible “major retail center for the city.”
If the true intent is to replace rolling hills and grazing lands with concrete parking lots and shopping malls, then the growth management plan should state that plainly.
Why would Belton officials pursue such an unpopular strategy to grow the city boundaries? They must believe that small-city problems are solved by turning a rural city into an urban sprawl with increased tax revenue.
These officials fail to recognize that county residents already contribute to the economic success of a small town by patronizing its businesses. Yet they’re seen only as a source of increased property tax revenue and not as constituents in the annexation process.
Taxation without representation has never been a winning strategy in this state or this nation.
My family bought land twice in unincorporated parts of Bell County because it was the ideal place to raise a family on Texas values of patriotism, freedom, and independence.
If Belton’s leaders continue a strategy of changing the city into something unrecognizable – and excluding constituents from the process – they will do it at the expense of our county. The beauty of Texas is sometimes lost in the roar of traffic and sprawl of a larger city. That’s why some Texans commute long distances each day: so they can return to the quiet haven of a rural country home where the only lights at night are the stars in the Texas sky.
Once Texas is lost, just as Milton imagined if paradise was lost, there is no replacement. This is not just an issue for a few who are being forcibly annexed today – it’s a question for all citizens of Bell County and all Texans: Is this the decline of Texas?
We should answer with a resounding “No!” It’s worth the investment of time attending hearings, drafting petitions, and gathering support from fellow Texans, so that we can remain a beacon of freedom. We are proud Americans who consistently seek opportunities to set our state apart by taking a stand on issues of liberty and our founding principle: consent of the governed.
If you want to get involved as a Belton, Bell County, or Texas resident:
- Attend the city’s public hearings.
- Contact your city, county, and state representatives, and support those affected by forced annexation.
- Sign petitions to opt in to increased protections from municipal annexation for your county.