During the special session, cities across the state of Texas, and their lobbyists, pushed back against Governor Greg Abbott’s aggressive agenda of restricting the power and growth of local governments in several areas. One area being cities’ ability to forcefully annex land.

Under current state law, cities have the ability to annex land without the input of those who live there, but that all changes on December 1. That’s when the state’s new annexation law takes effect and will force many cities across the state to seek voter input before annexing land. Unfortunately for many, Democrats in the Texas Senate killed the bill during the regular legislative session. Had it passed, the law would have taken effect in September.

Cities have, taken advantage of the delay and are clearly violating the spirit of the soon-to-be law by rushing to annex land before it takes effect. Many Texas cities such as McKinney, Belton, Mesquite, and Conroe have tried to rush through a land grab. In the Houston area, Pearland is the latest to do so.

Pearland is hoping to rush through the annexation process of 2,500 acres of land, which includes an airport, ahead of Dec. 1.

Unsurprisingly, the city doesn’t see the 500 people in 187 separate residences, or the additional $1,000 tax increase they’d have to pay, but what city officials do see is the $1.2 million in property tax revenue that would flow into city coffers if the annexation is complete.

This is exactly why we need a state preemption on the annexation process.

Without the state stepping in, residents would have little to no recourse in fighting forced annexation, as it is being seen with this land grab ahead of the law’s effective date. Residents have been speaking out, organizing, and showing up to city council, but at this point it has not been successful.

The areas that the city is seeking to annex have been in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) for over fifty years, and have managed themselves relatively well in that time.

The city is seeking to complete the annexation ahead of the law’s effective date, but their first annexation notification is dated September 20, just three months before then.

They claim that because of the tracts of land and population being annexed, the area falls under the purview of “involuntary annexation” and they say, “It is in the overall interest of the Pearland community to annex additional areas that are available but had not been planned for future under current law, before SB 6 goes into effect.”

Not only would the captive Pearland residents be subject to the taxation, spending, and debt of the city, but they’ll also have to begin to comply with their regulations. Many residents under the proposed annexation have farm animals like goats and chickens and feel that they would have to either comply with city zoning or fight to have their land type changed.

The residents also don’t want to pay for services that they never asked for. Many fend for themselves and argue that they have done just fine without city services and hope to continue to do so.

Most importantly, these people purchased and moved to these properties for the purpose of being outside of a city. They want the rights to live how they see fit and to be unburdened by the regulations and debt of a growing city. The city makes no justifiable argument for their attempt at forceful annexation and the argument that it’s best for the entire city to complete this ahead of the effective date is a farce to cover up the fact that the only group that benefits from this is the City of Pearland.

“I believe this is nothing but a land grab,” said local business and home owner Michele Falzon who addressed the council on the annexation. “We are being forced to address annexation. How would you feel if you received a 30% tax increase for nothing,” Falzon continued.

The first reading of the annexation plan will be Nov. 13 followed by a second reading on Nov. 27. Both will be at 6:30pm at Pearland’s temporary city council, 2555 Cullen Parkway 2nd floor of Pearland Public Safety Building

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.