McKinney is once again riding roughshod over property rights, and local landowners aren’t happy about it.

The city is trying to rush through dozens of forced annexations before a new state law takes effect December 1 ending the practice.

“There’s a land grab going on here to try to skirt the Dec. 1 deadline,” said Shannon Blake, whose property is targeted for annexation by the city. “I’m disappointed in the Mayor. He ran on private property rights and I think we all thought he would preserve those private property rights.”

Blake is one of over 100 property owners in unincorporated areas of northwest Collin County who received notices earlier this month telling them the City of McKinney intends to annex their property – with or without their consent. In exchange for forcing them into its city limits, McKinney is offering owners temporary relief from city property taxes – a weak attempt to make the annexations more palatable.

It’s a “deal” many property owners don’t want, and they showed up in force at Tuesday’s city council meeting to voice their objections to the city’s plans – which soon won’t even be legal.

Current law allows cities to annex property in their extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) – unincorporated land adjacent to city boundaries – without owners’ consent. Senate Bill 6, which passed during this year’s special legislative session, will require cities like McKinney to get owners’ approval before annexing them, giving some protection to landowners who’ve chosen to be outside of city boundaries – and free from city regulations and taxes.

Targeted landowner Tamlynn Clyde estimates annexation will cost her about $2,000 per year in city taxes.

“It makes me angry. And it makes me feel betrayed by the city,” Clyde said. “Obviously, they think that we wouldn’t want to be annexed; otherwise they’d wait for the new law to take effect, and we could vote.”

Shannon Blake’s husband Jason says his family doesn’t need the city services that come with annexation, and they don’t want the increased taxes or limits on what they can do on their own property.

“I just want to live in peace,” he said.

State Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Little Elm) also spoke out at Tuesday’s meeting against the city’s rush to annex before the new property rights protections are in place, and State Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) sent a letter to Mayor George Fuller strongly opposing the annexations.

Despite hearing an overwhelming “no” from the public, McKinney city council members voted 4-3 to proceed with the forced annexation plan. Mayor Fuller and councilmembers Tracy Rath, Rainey Rogers, and La’Shadion Shemwell voted for the land grab; councilmembers Chuck Branch, Scott Elliott, and Charlie Philips acknowledged their campaign promises to honor property rights and voted against the proposal.

A similar controversy cropped up in Parker County this month. After facing a strong public backlash, the City of Weatherford dropped its plans to forcibly annex property before SB 6 takes effect.

McKinney already has a reputation for over-reaching when it comes to property rights. Since 2015, the city has been involved in litigation for bullying Collin County property owners in its ETJ to comply with city building regulations. On the campaign trail in May, then-candidates Fuller, Elliott, Phillips, and Shemwell all told voters they’d quickly end the ill-conceived litigation against ETJ property owners; so far, that hasn’t happened.

Public hearings on McKinney’s forced annexation plan are scheduled for October 16 and 17, with a final council vote set for November 7.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.