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At the Historic Parker County Courthouse, county commissioners took a historic vote to put Texas’ first municipal annexation reform “opt-in” proposition on the November ballot.

On March 5, citizens with the group Stop Involuntary Annexation in Parker County filed the state’s first municipal annexation reform petition requesting an election to end forced annexation in the county.

On Monday, County Judge Mark Riley and all four commissioners voted unanimously to accept the verified petition and order the election.

The petition process is part of the limited annexation reform bill enacted last year. Senate Bill 6 banned forced annexation only in the state’s largest counties, those with 500,000 or more residents. Unincorporated property owners in the rest of Texas, including Parker County, are left unprotected from city land grabs – unless residents vote to opt in to protected “Tier 2” status.

Under SB 6, if 10 percent of a county’s registered voters sign a petition, the issue is put to a countywide vote.

Parker County Elections Administrator Don Markum verified last week, and again at Monday’s commissioners court meeting, that 9,162 registered voters signed the petition – well over the 8,926 needed to meet the requirement. Volunteers collected more than 15,000 signatures.

“It’s a privilege for our office to be part of this process, and to know that our county will be the first one to have this on the November ballot,” Markum told commissioners.

Laura Hester, one of the petition drive organizers, thanked Judge Riley and the commissioners for their assistance throughout the first-of-its-kind petition process.

“Parker County residents deserve the right to make decisions about their property,” Hester said. “Our group is excited this proposition will be on the ballot in November and that we have led the way for other counties all across the state.”

Residents in Bell, Ellis, Johnson, and Wise counties are also gathering petition signatures to put annexation reform opt-in propositions on their ballots.

Parker petition organizer Dedra Vick also thanked the residents and members of the community who collected signatures and hosted petitions at their businesses. Many were in the courtroom for the historic vote.

“We are ready for the campaign,” Vick said. “This will be for no good if we don’t get out and vote for it in November.”

If a majority of voters approve the measure in November, cities in Parker County will no longer be able to annex unincorporated land without property owners’ consent.

“We understand cities will grow,” Hester said. “They should partner with county residents and plan together for future growth.”