Citizens in six Texas counties accomplished on Election Day what the Texas Legislature has repeatedly failed to do: protect local property owners from forced annexation.
Voters in Parker, Wise, Johnson, Freestone, Palo Pinto, and Atascosa overwhelmingly approved ballot propositions to change their counties to protected “Tier 2” status, which means cities there must now get the owners’ consent before annexing unincorporated property.
By approving Tier 2 status, voters put a stop to forced annexation — a major win for property rights.
Local citizens were forced to take action because state lawmakers passed municipal annexation reform last year that only protected property owners in the state’s largest counties. The law defines Tier 2 counties as those with 500,000 or more residents.
Cities in all the other Texas counties — designated Tier 1 — are still allowed to annex unincorporated property without asking the owners’ permission unless residents vote to change their county to protected Tier 2 status.
Residents came together in each county to circulate petitions calling for a vote on the issue, gathering signatures from at least 10 percent of their county’s registered voters. After successfully petitioning the question onto the November ballot, the citizens-turned-property rights activists then joined together in a nonpartisan effort to educate voters and get them to the polls to vote FOR the Tier 2 opt-in measure — which they did by wide margins:
- Atascosa: FOR – 65%, Against – 35%
- Freestone: FOR – 79%, Against – 21%
- Johnson: FOR – 77%, Against – 23%
- Palo Pinto: FOR – 75%, Against – 25%
- Parker: FOR – 81%, Against – 19%
- Wise: FOR – 77%, Against – 23%
The Texas Association of Realtors joined county residents’ fight to stop forced annexation. TAR’s Issues Mobilization PAC produced ads and marketing materials for the campaign, and maintains a website promoting the ongoing #Vote4Tier2 movement. Ellis County voters are set to adopt Tier 2 status on their May 2019 ballot.
The legislature may revisit annexation reform in 2019, but local residents aren’t waiting.
Citizens are not only coming together to protect local property rights; they’re showing that by working together, Texans can stand up for themselves when local and state governments won’t.