Ellis County activists are passing around a petition that could allow residents living outside of a city's limits to have a say during an annexation process.
The official launch of the petition was held Monday, Feb. 12 in front of the historic Ellis County Courthouse. The general feeling of the petitioners centered around concerns related to higher taxes and new ordinances that affect their country-style living.
Annexation is the process by which cities extend their boundary limits, implementing municipal services, regulations, voting privileges, and taxing authority to the extra-territorial jurisdiction. But if Ellis County becomes a tier two county, residents will have a vote if they want to join.
According to Chapter 43 of the Texas Legal Government Code, a tier-two county is “a tier-one county in which a majority of the registered voters of the county have approved being a tier two county at an election ordered by the commissioners court on the request by petition of a number of registered voters of the county equal to or greater than 10 percent of the registered voters of the county.”
Chapter 43 also states that Ellis County can become a tier-two county if 10 percent of registered voters sign a petition that’s approved by the commissioner's court. Some Ellis County residents are trying to get the vote on the November ballot.
According to the Ellis County Elections Office, there are a total of 104,048 registered voters, meaning the petition needs about 11,000 signatures.
Gov. Greg Abbott signed a Senate Bill 6 during the special session that limits annexation powers of the city.
Abbott and co-author of the petition Kevin Ward both compared forced annexation with taxation without representation.
“The one thing people need to understand is that we are not against annexation, we are just against forced annexation,” Ward stated. “So if you want to be annexed, you still can be. I refer to it as taxation without representation, the people that make the decision to annex you — you can’t vote in or out of office because you are not in that town yet.”
In a December, the Midlothian City Council finalized a resolution adopting an annexation plan for the city and initiated a three-year annexation process. About 5.42 square miles of land adjacent to the southeastern corporate limits of the city was annexed into Midlothian proper.
Ward lives on Jo Wilson Road with a Midlothian address and noticed online that he lived on annex-territory. His thought was “$3,000 a year in increased taxes for nothing. That and the ordinances that will then adopt. There’s no need for it.”
Louis Ponder also lives in Midlothian and was annexed as of Jan. 1. The petition has a life of 180 days from Feb. 12 to acquire the necessary amount of signatures before turned into the Elections Office to be reviewed. The petition will then move to the Commissioners Court to be voted on whether to be added to the November ballot.
“It means something to me and to the people around me and my family,” Ponder expressed. “The land that my family lives on — they’ve owned that land for over a century. We’ve always had the freedom to do what we wanted on the property that’s legal, but now we have added city ordinances we have to deal with.”
At the public signing on Monday, Troy Watson, a resident at the Eagle’s Nest, said he felt forced annexation seemed like a one-sided deal and isn’t exactly American or fair in business.
“I’m a big supporter of stopping this unwanted, unwarranted annexation. It’s aggressive, parasitic activity by these municipalities around the DFW area and all throughout Texas,” Watson emphasized. “They will annex a group to increase their tax base but don’t bring any services in return.”
Watson mentioned citizens could benefit from having a choice of being annexed because they won’t accumulate municipal taxes and will protect their property rights as well.
“Right now we live under any county ordinances, but if all of a sudden municipality encroached upon us it would alter the way that we can use our own property and assets,” Watson said.
Watson’s friend who’s lived in Eagle’s Nest for five years said, “We moved out into the county because we didn’t want to be in the city. So when they try to come out and impose their city limits without any benefit to us, we have already seen what he tax increase would be with neighboring — well now there is no benefit to us.”
Vernon Franklin has lived near the airport and said he’s never been annexed but shared, “Typically when you’re annexed, your taxes increase. We [him and neighbors] have all estimated that our taxes will go up by $1,500 to $3,000 per home [per year] and there’s no additional services the city will provide for that increase in money.”
He elaborated saying he already gets utility services, trash pick-up, emergency services, and roadways took care of.
“I think we are doing the right thing here, voicing our opinion. I think we are taking the right steps in the hope that people will listen to us,” Franklin shared.
Registered Ellis County voters can find the petition on their Facebook Ellis County Annexation Reform and website http://stopinvoluntaryannexation.org/.