Petition begins to stop forced annexation

Photo courtesy Ellis County Annexation Reform.

ELLIS COUNTY — Ellis County residents are working to stop involuntary annexations by cities in the county.

A press conference will be held at the historic Ellis County Courthouse in Waxahachie on Monday, February 12, 2018 at 12 p.m. The public is invited to attend, ask questions, volunteer and registered voters of Ellis county can sign the petition.

The petition calls for a vote to be placed on the ballot in the November election that would allow Ellis County to opt in as a Tier 2 county under the Municipal Annexation Reform law signed by Governor Abbott in August 2017.

The Tier 2 status gives residents in the annexation area the right to vote on whether they want to be annexed into the city limits. Annexation is the process by which a city expands its boundaries into unincorporated areas.

Ellis County Annexation Reform petitioners are concerned that currently annexation is done without landowner consent.

"Some landowners may choose to annex for a variety of reasons (e.g. water, trash pickup, restrictions that prevent unsavory businesses)", Louis Ponder said, who faced an involuntary annexation agreement in Midlothian.

"However, landowners who are forced to become city residents have no vote. They acquire the debt a city has incurred and are now responsible to pay taxes to a government they did not have any voice in electing. Becoming a city resident restricts what we can do with our land including higher taxes, parking on unimproved surfaces, burning, pet & livestock limits, hunting, building permits, sprinkler systems, and extensive costs for the landowner to hook up to the city water and septic systems."

The focus is not to stop all annexation but simply to give landowners a choice.

Only ten counties in the state of Texas with populations over 500,000 automatically changed to the Tier 2 status on December 1, 2017. Representative Phil King added an amendment to the law allowing 244 smaller counties with a population of under 500,000 to petition to gain the Tier 2 status.

To gain Tier 2 status, 10% of Ellis County registered voters must sign the petition. Once the signatures are gathered and approved the county puts municipal annexation reform on the ballot in November 2018.

For more information about the petition process, visit the Facebook group "Ellis County Annexation Reform", or to print a petition, sign it, and mail it in.