This article has been updated since publishing.
Collin County residents frustrated by the City of McKinney’s rush to forcibly annex land, before a new law says they can’t, took their concerns to county commissioners on Monday.
Commissioners listened and responded – something many feel city officials aren’t doing – and after hearing a long list of unanswered questions about the city’s impending land grab, they promised to take action on behalf of their constituents.
County Judge Keith Self said the court is going to follow up and would ask the District Attorney to investigate “the process and the law.” A challenge to annexation, he said, can only be made by the county’s District Attorney or the Texas Attorney General.
“We have a strong history of protecting private property rights in the ETJ,” Self said, referring to the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, which is unincorporated land adjacent to city boundaries that is eligible to be annexed. “That’s in the county – we do consider ourselves your representatives.”
Commissioners Court subsequently voted to send a letter to McKinney’s mayor rather than engaging the DA at this time, according to Self.
Citizens are upset by McKinney’s plans to force ETJ land into the city limits and onto city tax rolls with just a few weeks’ notice and without landowners’ consent.
McKinney won’t be able to do that after December 1, when municipal annexation reform passed during the special legislative session goes into effect. Citizens say the city’s action now goes against the spirit of the law.
Why not wait and let the people vote? “If it’s a great deal now, it’ll be a great deal January 1,” noted county resident Jim Bourland. Yet McKinney Mayor George Fuller said earlier this month that he thought ETJ residents would be “very unlikely” to voluntarily choose to join the city if allowed to vote on it.
But impacted residents don’t just believe that what the city is doing is wrong. They’re worried about the financial consequences.
They wonder if the city is prepared to provide adequate municipal services to annexed areas. The city admits that “the estimated cost to provide services and/or net new costs is not something that we have.”
Some targeted landowners say they feel pressured into signing development agreements with the city. And many say the city’s haste to lay claim to their land has caused it to make a lot of procedural mistakes.
They don’t know where else to turn for answers.
“All we hear from the city council are excuses,” one county resident said. “We have no other representation.”
Precinct 3 Commissioner Chris Hill said he doesn’t know what’s in the hearts and minds of McKinney council members, but he knows what they’ve said.
“When I hear those comments that folks don’t pay their fair share of city taxes, what I hear is the city wants to seize this opportunity to take your tax revenues for their city budget.
“I also hear the argument that we need to ensure that development in your area, the ETJ, is done in a manner that is organized, strategic, and high quality… What I hear is the desire to take control of other people’s land.”
“Quite frankly, citizens take the best control and management of their own land. As a public servant and a member of your government, we don’t do as good a job of providing for quality of your land as you do… those kinds of comments fail to recognize and appreciate and respect that.”
Hill also challenged the argument that people in the ETJ should expect to be annexed into the city.
“I reject that thinking outright,” Hill said. “There is no pretext under state law that says if you live in the ETJ, you will be in the city limits someday. That’s not the purpose of the ETJ.”
Hill pointed out that many properties were purchased before they were within the ETJ, which is constantly changing.
“If you can’t purchase property outside the ETJ because the ETJ will come to get you, and you can’t purchase property in the ETJ because the city will come to get you, then where can you go live if you prefer to live outside the city? I think you ought to have the right to choose, all citizens ought to have that right who don’t want to live in the city.
“So there’s a fundamental problem with this concept of forced annexation on our citizens.”
Precinct 2 Commissioner Cheryl Williams added that the city’s plans don’t suggest they’re annexing county roads, which she called a legitimate concern with how the county will deal with annexations now and in the future.
“It’s incumbent on a city to comply with local government code,” Williams said, indicating that the court will “at a minimum” ask the county attorney to look into procedural concerns raised by their constituents.
It’s not certain if county officials will discover anything that slows down or halts the city’s land grab. Residents are just glad that someone in local government is looking out for them.
The next public hearing on McKinney’s annexation plans will be held on Wednesday, October 25, at 12:00 noon, at Nature Nate’s. (Targeted landowners petitioned the city to hold an additional hearing within the ETJ for the convenience of county residents; the city chose to schedule it during the middle of the day.) Public comments can be submitted online as well. City officials plan a final vote on Wednesday, November 15, at McKinney City Hall.