Residents of two North Texas counties are two steps closer to stopping a city’s land grab.
On Tuesday, a temporary restraining order halting the City of Mesquite’s forced annexation of Kaufman County property was upheld, and an additional TRO was signed to protect property in Dallas County as well – all but ending the city’s plans to annex land without owners’ consent before a new state law says they can’t.
In the first blow to the city, Texas’ Fifth District Court of Appeals in Dallas denied Mesquite’s motion to overturn the restraining order issued by Kaufman County District Judge Casey Blair last Friday. Blair’s order put a temporary stop to any annexation action by Mesquite in Kaufman County until a November 20 hearing determines whether city officials violated state laws during the annexation process, which began in September.
Residents have been fighting the land grab ever since – in city council meetings, on social media, and now in court.
Following a November 9 letter from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office questioning whether Mesquite’s proposed annexation violates state law, both Kaufman County District Attorney Erleigh Wiley and Tracy Gray, an attorney representing landowners targeted for annexation, alleged that city officials may have violated the state’s Local Government Code while rushing to beat the clock on municipal annexation reform that takes effect December 1.
Kaufman County’s district court determined that the allegations merit further review, and the appellate court upheld that ruling.
In addition, Judge Staci Williams of Dallas County’s 101st District Court approved a temporary restraining order requested by Gray that blocks Mesquite’s forced annexation of property in Dallas County, putting the city’s plans to forcibly annex land there on hold until a hearing on November 28 – just three days before the law changes.
State Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Forney), who’s been helping his Kaufman County constituents fight Mesquite’s land grab, called Tuesday’s decisions “our biggest win yet.”
Mesquite Mayor Stan Pickett said in a statement Tuesday, “While we are disappointed with the outcome of the legal proceedings, we will continue to evaluate our options moving forward and explore alternative approaches designed to protect our extraterritorial jurisdiction from unwanted development and uses.”
The city’s options are now limited. If Mesquite can’t complete its forced annexation process before the December 1 deadline, the new law will require the city to get property owners’ consent before annexing them.
Neither of those things is likely to happen now.
Who says you can’t fight city hall?