Questions such as “Why" and “What benefit will we get" were frequently repeated questions during a public hearing on four proposed annexations at Tuesday's city council meeting.
The annexations would add approximately 721 acres to the present city limits. Less than 100 homes are in each area, allowing the city to use a 90-day annexation process to consider adding them to the city limits. A second public hearing is scheduled for Oct. 11 at 6 p.m. The vote for annexation will not be until a special called meeting on Nov. 1 at 6 p.m.
“These annexations are areas that were left out when surrounding areas were annexed. These areas already get fire protection,” Mayor Bill Houston said.
Before the annexations hearing began, city planning director Kevin Lasher addressed a previously expressed concern.
“The city taxes will be affective the year after the annexation. They will not be due until after January, 2018,” he said.
During his briefing to the council, Lasher told the council due to the lots in each of these area being relatively large lots and some including agricultural use that city staff is recommending the areas be zoned for agricultural use or large lot residential.
To resident Donna Mullins questions, Lasher explained the agriculture tax exemption will be an option for property owners. Property owners seeking an agriculture exemption must apply to the city manager Chris Dick. Information on agriculture exemptions was included in information packets sent out to residents in the four areas Lasher said.
The city’s attorney told the residents that there are two tax exemptions they could apply for: persons over 65 and agriculture.
“There are requirements that are set by the state that must be met to grant an agriculture exemption,” the attorney said.
Several members of the audience spoke in opposition to annexation. Several told the council they moved to their land in the unincorporated areas to get out of the cities.
“I bought this land sixteen years ago to be in the country. I do not want to be in the city. I do not like city rules,” said resident Cliff Russell who had several points of opposition. “Who will be my city council representative? With as many homes out there and new development, we ought to have our own representative. You are opening Pandora’s Box that will come back to bit you.”
Some of the residents in the expressed concern about the burden of the increased city taxes.
“I do not understand the reasoning for annexation. All it will do is add taxation to many who cannot afford them. I, for one, will not be able to afford a city tax in addition to the other taxes,” said Guy Powers of the Bryson Road area.
“My main concern is an increase in taxes and the cost of trash service. Why not annex the land below where there are fireworks stands,” another resident, Gail Wilkinson, asked.
There was no action on the annexations taken at Tuesday's meeting.
The council did approved an agreement between the Midlothian Community Development Corporation (MCDC) and Novus Realty to sell a 6.47 acre tract of land next to the hotel in the convention center area.
Tamy Toby, chair of the MCDC board, said that certain parameters were set for the type of restaurant that could be built on the site.
“There will be no drive through windows. This will be a sit-down-and-dine type, family restaurant,” Toby said.
The council also unanimously approve a proposal by Fugro Roadware for a comprehensive study plan for the city’s streets. The plan describes by a representative of Figro starts with a comprehensive study of all of the city’s streets including street in extraterritorial jurisdiction districts using state of the art digital imaging equipment to evaluate are grade the condition of each street. Once the survey is completed, a comprehensive report will be made available to the council.
The representative said that a this would be an ongoing study with time increments for each type of pavement and use.
Council members approval of a $250,000 grant to be awarded by the Midlothian Community Development Corporation to the Midlothian Senior Citizens Center for the center's expansion project.
The MCDC had previously offered to grant the money to the center if the city would increase it's contribution to the center by a matching amount. The council members voted at the Sept. 13 meeting not to increase their contribution from $500,000 to $725,000 as part of the city budget for the fiscal year 2016-17. Council members said at the Sept. 13 meeting that they would consider increasing the contribution as more details about other community and business donations were available and a final cost left to be cover was determined.
The grant approved Tuesday was given to the Senior Center by the MCDC with no requirements for a matching city contribution.