Cities across the state are violating the spirit of Texas’ new annexation law by trying to rush through land grabs ahead of the law’s December 1 effective date, but residents have been stepping up and fighting back.

Texas Scorecard has been reporting on many North Texas cities that are attempting to forcefully annex land before new regulations would prohibit them from doing it without voter approval, but now the Houston area is seeing it as well.

Pearland is attempting to forcefully annex 2,500 acres of land that includes an airport, and one city council member, Keith Ordeneaux, said that the state law was indeed a factor in the city’s plans to move forward. Residents have been vocally opposing the plan, and if the city waits until the new law takes effect, the annexation would have to be brought to a public referendum. That means about $1.2 million in additional property tax revenue for Pearland would be left up to voters, and the city can’t risk that.

Adding insult to injury, the city sent notices of annexation to homeowners during the last week of August, just after Harvey hit and mail service was suspended. Most homeowners were preoccupied, rightfully so, with rebuilding or getting back to their homes, not fighting a tax-seeking government entity.

Those in the five large parcels that the city is seeking to annex have no desire to be inside the jurisdiction of the city. They say they get water from their wells, don’t trust the city to maintain roads, and are perfectly content with the response times of the county sheriff.

The land that the city wants to annex is in its extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ, and has been since the 1960s. The presentation prepared by the city says, “annexation prior to SB 6 effective date is in the best interest of the overall Pearland community” – except it is not in the best interest of those being forcefully pulled into the city’s sphere of control.

The five parcels being eyed for annexation are home to a population of just over 500 people and 187 separate residences. If the annexation is approved, according to the city, residents will see about $1,000 property tax increase before exemptions, over $500 of that going just to debt service.

Though the city lists five justifications for forced annexation in their presentation, not one accounts for why 2,500 acres should be absorbed by the city government without approval of property owners.

Pearland City Council will be doing a first reading of the annexation ordinance on November 6, and a second on November 13.

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.

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