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We won! That’s the message from opponents of Mesquite’s planned land grab as new municipal annexation reforms kicked in today.

December 1 marks the effective date of Senate Bill 6, which restricts forced annexation in Texas. The new law requires cities in counties with 500,000 or more residents to get landowners’ consent before annexing their property.

That includes the city of Mesquite, which has been aiming to annex land in Kaufman and Dallas counties despite residents’ strong opposition.

Mesquite City Council didn’t take up annexation in its regular meeting last night, meaning they officially missed today’s deadline to enact an annexation ordinance under the old rules.

State Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Forney), who’s been working to stop Mesquite’s land grab on behalf of his Kaufman County constituents, said in a Facebook video early Friday morning:

“Mesquite may try to come back down the road and say let’s retroactively annex, but they know that’s not going to happen. This game is over, we’ve won, and we’re declaring victory today.”

Property owners had vowed to fight the city’s land grab “until the end,” and Gooden told residents at a town hall meeting back in September that helping them would be his top priority until December 1.

Attorney Tracy Gray, whose Guest & Gray law firm has been representing the targeted landowners pro bono, also released a Facebook message marking the new law’s effective date:

“Happy December 1! It’s just after midnight, and the new law on annexation in Texas has just gone into effect. What that means is that people who live in Mesquite’s extraterritorial jurisdiction will not be annexed from here on out without their vote or their say-so. And that’s what we’ve all been waiting for.”

Gray explained that the temporary restraining order extended by the court earlier this week prevented Mesquite’s city council from enacting an ordinance of annexation before SB 6 took effect, and any future annexation ordinances must comply with the new law – meaning the city will now have to get landowners’ consent to annex their property. Both the city and property owners acknowledge that’s not likely to happen.

Gray also cautioned that the city might continue to fight in court to retroactively annex property under the old law, but said “our research shows that they’re not going to be able to do that.”

At this point, Gray said, Mesquite taxpayers need to ask their city officials why they keep fighting and why money keeps being spent on this.

“We are still going to keep fighting until this is completely finished,” Gray said.

Not all Texans are safe from forced annexation yet. But today marks a victory in the fight to stop the land grabs by Mesquite and other cities in the state’s largest counties. Engaged citizens fought city hall – and won.

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