published Saturday, March 9th, 2013

Property rights: End forced annexation

By William Haupt III

Since the founding of our country, property rights have been considered sacred and have been protected by our Constitution. George Washington once said, “You cannot have a free society without private property.” John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, stated, “No power on earth has a right to take our property from us without our consent.” In most states property rights are well protected by legislation. Unfortunately that is not the case everywhere.

“Involuntary forced municipal annexation” is a legal way for a local jurisdiction to take control of your property without a single vote by citizens. It has been in practice in this state for decades. There are only three states left that allow this: Idaho, Indiana and Tennessee. Last year, North Carolina ended its residents’ 100-year nightmare when the legislature overwhelmingly passed laws to end this rein of terror inflicted on property owners. Movements are under way to eliminate this in Idaho and Indiana. If they are successful, that will leave Tennessee as the only state that allows “forced annexation” by municipalities.

For years residents in rural communities in the Volunteer State have been living under the threat of involuntary annexation, yet few questioned why 47 other states allow annexation by referendum only. For decades, every attempt to reform our annexation laws has failed.

People chose to live in environments commensurate with their values and needs. Unfortunately when their neighborhoods are annexed against their will, they are never the same. Subject to changes in codes, zoning, ordinances and new taxes, these homeowners must accept the consequences and pay dearly for it or move. This not only disrupts their lives, but it’s often an extreme economic hardship on them. Being annexed can be particularly devastating for our seniors.

Many city managers and planners are extremely reticent to change these laws. It is their contention that if they lose the power to annex our rural communities “at will,” this will inhibit their plans for economic growth and ability to increase revenue. I disagree. Tennesseans are very supportive of properly planned municipal expansion. Effective metropolitan growth is needed to control the use of our resources and safeguard the serenity of our environment.

Ensuring orderly maturation and well-planed community evolution are paramount. It entails intense demographic research, well thought out regulatory and incentive strategies and historic preservation. Planning for a well regulated infrastructure ultimately makes municipal growth successful. Why would any of our businesses or citizens be against that? Yet confiscating large areas of unincorporated residential neighborhoods under the cloak of “planned urban growth” is not right or ethical. All property annexations should be done through referendum. It is part of our rightful democratic process.

Fortunately for us, this year Tennessee’s state legislators have chosen to address the serious problem of forced annexation. House bill 475 is sponsored by Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah. Carter hopes to amend our antiquated annexation laws making it mandatory for annexation of unincorporated properties to be done through referendum only. I urge you to ask your state senators and representatives to support this effort.

In 1816 Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Next to the right of liberty, the right of property is the most important individual right guaranteed by the Constitution and the one which, united with that of personal liberty, has contributed more to the growth of civilization than any other institution established by the human race.” The time has come to end involuntary annexation in Tennessee.

William Haupt III is a retired former citizen legislator from California now living in Middle Tennessee. He is founder of Tennesseans Against Forced Annexation, an organization created to help the citizens of Tennessee better understand the state’s complex annexation laws.

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nucanuck said...

Because County residents are heavy users of City resourses, cities need to find ways to pass those costs along to county residents. City amenities, employment opportunities, roads and infrastructure are a big part of why most county residents have chosen to live near cities.

Receiving benefit without payment puts an undo burden on city rate payers who must absorb the usage cost of their county cousins. County residents, in effect, receive welfare through the uncompensated benefits they recieve.

Annexation may not be the answer, but, if not, some complex user fees should probably be imposed to fairly share the burden of shared benefits.

County residents are getting a free lunch and they know it.

March 9, 2013 at 2:03 a.m.
EaTn said...

Once the fringes of a city expands in population and usage of the city's benefits, it only makes sense to allow that city to annex that portion if they choose. I was recently forced-annexed and have no issues of paying my fair share of services I've been using for some time..

March 9, 2013 at 5:30 a.m.
MasterChefLen said...

Forced annexation is a crock. When it comes to Chattanooga, north Georgia and northeast Alabama benefit Chattanooga as well, are you annexation supporters going to have toll booths and duties assessed at border points? Mayor Ron Littlefield and his "rubberstamp city council" (i.e. Jack Benson, Manny Rico, Pam Ladd, & Andre McGary were all proponents of it. After the last 4 years of Littlefield's dictatorial final term, he will not be able to get elected dog catcher. 3 of this 4 sock puppet city council members have been voted out, the only remaining "Fat Cat" Jack Benson is almost certain to be voted out in the run off election. With the gross mismanagement and incompetent running Chattanooga as it exists today, Chattanooga certainly cannot reasonably manage any more. Chattanooga is only interested in the added tax base for annexation, which is technically illegal in Tennessee. Chattanooga has gone about "cherry picking" annexation areas during the past few years as if they were kids in candy store. The mentality that the people outside of the Chattanooga city limits are being provided welfare or not paying their "fair share" simply has no merit. It is simply a case of wanting to spend other people's money and imposing their will on others who have no choice in the matter.

March 9, 2013 at 8:46 a.m.
nucanuck said...

MCL,

You infer that county residents don't benefit from their proximity to the city and that paying their fair share has no merit. Would you care to elaborate on why some users should pay and others should not?

If there is a reason that user fees or some form of compensation should not apply to some users, I would like to hear it.

March 9, 2013 at 9:49 a.m.
MasterChefLen said...

Nucanuck: You seem to be under the impression that the majority of county residents owe the City of Chattanooga something for having the "privilege" of living near the city limits through the expansion. You seem to think that outer resident's seem to "owe" Chattanooga for using streets and commerce within the city limits. Where does this supposing owing end? If you continue with your logic should there be no county areas? Your line of so called logic would tend to lead the belief that Chattanooga should annex all land until it leads to other municipality city limits. Do you favor Chattanooga annexing everything to Cleveland, Jasper, Dunlap, and McMinnville? Those residents may be benefiting form your so called "free lunch" at times. In your first posting, how do you define "close" when you mentioned that "most county residents have chosen to live near cities". Many of those residents did not live "close" to cities depending upon your definition, the city of Chattanooga "chose" to expand closer to them. You mention so called benefits, what are they according to you? An incompetent mayor (Littelfield) for the past 8 years? A tax and spend city council that wastes tax dollars on so call art? Street projects that are probably being paid for by the hour (Shallowford between Jenkins and Gunbarrel)? Utility billing that being handled by a California firm that provides fees just to pay the bill and not receiving enough time in the mailing to pay the bill in a timely fashion? Hiring a crony general services director (Paul Page) at a salary of $95,000 so he can sexually harass city staff? Chattanooga's annexation is nothing but a land grab for more tax revenue, which by the way is ILLEGAL by Tennessee state law. If the county residents want to so call "benefit" from Chattanooga by being a resident, let them decide, not Chattanooga politicians who need extra revenue to make up for their incompetence and bad decisions.

March 9, 2013 at 11:14 a.m.
taxusless said...

We already have three layers of government that we are supporting in our unincorporated county communities: Federal, County, and State. When a city chooses to annex your community you are adding a fourth layer of government to support. Do we really want another layer of bureaucracy demanding our tax dollars and telling us what we can and cannot do with our property?

Individuals should have the right to challenge a city’s ability to suddenly start collecting taxes from them. This should ultimately be determined by a vote by all citizens located in the effected communities. That’s a democratic principle that should immediately become a part of Tennessee law."

Somebody needs to help our citizens gain the necessary knowledge on how to fight this “annexation at will” by our greedy municipalities. It can happen to anyone at any time in this state. And yes, don’t let them fool you. They claim this is a 20 year growth plan, but it can be revised at anytime a city decides they want more land and tax dollars.

No matter what your political affiliation is, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or Independent, you should be interested in ending forced annexation! Everyone should have the right to chose if they want to have their property annexed by a local municipality. They should also be given the opportunity to vote weather or not they want to pay additional city taxes, live under a different set of rules, and be apart of a community in which they did not chose to live in when they moved here.

March 9, 2013 at 1:04 p.m.
taxusless said...

Our annexation laws are out of date. Just look at all of the dollars that the cities, counties and state governments have had to spend defending the annexation of property by individuals who want to be left alone. Giving the citizens of those communities the right to vote in the first place would have prevented all of this. We live in a Republic which is a government of laws and those laws are developed under the guidelines of the democratic process of elections and legislature. If we find that we have made laws that are bad, then we should have the right to revisit them from time to time and redefine them. Mike Carter’s bill does just that. It is opening up the subject of annexation for discussion before the entire house. Unfortunately, the TML which is the biggest lobby group in the state, and just happens to be paid by your city tax dollars, is the only opponent we have before we can get this bill out of committee and to the house for an open and candid discussion. All of you people who feel that county residents are abusing them, please call the TML and ask them to quite lobbying against us and let us open up the floor for discussion on this issue. It is obvious that the annexation kings and queens are afraid to let the public speak! If it is determined that abusing property rights of others is OK by our legislators and not lobbyists, then so be it! I have never seen as issue with such bipartisan support and even support from the environmentalists and the Sierra Club! At lease let the people speak and be heard. It is obvious that the lobbyists are coming unglued because they fear for their existence. Our annexation laws were written in 1998. Things have changed. People are more informed, and we have evolved into a more enlightened electorate. Let us debate this bill openly and candidly so both sides can be heard!

March 9, 2013 at 1:48 p.m.
nucanuck said...

Let's make this simple. If the city were to magically be removed, most county residents would probably not remain for long. After all, every city resident also pays county taxes. On the other hand, if the county went away the remaining city would survive quite nicely.

Developers work hard to find property NEAR the city because there is strong demand for housing near the city, but without city taxes. County residents are getting a free lunch at someone else's expense...everybody who is honest and paying attention knows that. Make all the high falutin arguments you want...the bottom line is you don't want to share in the cost for the amenities that the city affords you.

March 9, 2013 at 5:46 p.m.
MasterChefLen said...

Based upon the the performance of the current and soon to be ex-Chattanooga mayor (Ron Littlefield) and his "rubberstamp city council" Nucanuck's "Free Lunch" argument would not pass health department or USDA inspections. It is not "honest" to take over other people's property rights and take money in form of additional taxes while most likely, providing "no additional value" in return, and all the while letting them have "no say" in the matter. Oh, by the way, annexing for the purpose of additional tax base is illegal by Tennessee state law.

March 9, 2013 at 10:10 p.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

nucanuck said... "...the bottom line is you don't want to share in the cost for the amenities that the city affords you."

Just wondering, what city amenities do you think a person would not be happy to live without? If I was a city person I would live in the city. I recognise now that the biggest mistake I have made was to move too close to another city after escaping the "amenities" of Atlanta.

The city should learn to live within its means and avoid spreading misery to the surrounding communities. If the amenities are so wonderful they should be able to stand on their own.

March 10, 2013 at 12:15 a.m.
fairmon said...

I am a resident of the city and fail to realize the benefit. I would like to see the county government become the only government. What does the city government hierarchy provide that the county mayor and commission could not? The city sewer system is paid for by users. Storm water run off is paid separately from property taxes. Eliminating the redundancy, duplication and over lap would be a tremendous savings to both county and city residents. Why do people always think of city government as the government of choice? This city government insist on amenities that the majority of city residents would prefer doing without. One example is a Blue Rhino sculpture for around $17,000 plus $3 million dollars a year for similar non additive activities. The list of politically and special interest motivated spending is long.

March 10, 2013 at 5:45 a.m.
taxusless said...

Respectively addressing nucanuck’s post: None of us county residents are against urban growth. As the writer of this excellent editorial states, it is a necessity. But, many of us move as far away from the city as possible to get away from problems associated with city life. (and city politics) We do not want the layering of government just for the sake of having more rules, regulations, and services we do not want. Many of us are very self sufficient here in the county and have absolutely no city services whatsoever. I for one do not drive on one city street to get to the interstate, yet this gentleman feels as though all of us who drive through a city should pay some type of fee for that privilege? Should some guy who gets off the interstate and stops for gas and food have to pay a toll free for the privilege of using his road? I do agree if areas in the country that are being provided with city services they are obligated to pay for them. That is only fair. And if that is the case, it does make a case for annexation. But I have seen so many times where a city wanted a prime piece of real estate for development and economic enhancement, located in the county and they annexed an entire portion of that residential county just to get that one piece of property. I personally do not see any issue in bringing our laws up to date with those in 47 other states by simply allowing us to vote if we chose to be annexed or not? Why is this such a terrible thing when it affects our lives so dramatically? If living in the city is so great then I am sure those who desire being annexed will most definitely vote to join that city if they are given a chance

March 10, 2013 at 10:14 a.m.
nucanuck said...

To reverse the question: should City tax payers have to pay County taxes? Can't a similar argument be made?

If County residents take the narrow view that they do not wish to participate in what is clearly the broader community and think that a line drawn by a surveyer should exempt them from the taxation of his neighbors, then the path for the City residents should be clear. The city residents should vote to retire the City Charter and all become County residents only. That would shift all governance to the County AND ALL THE COSTS. The County would get to decide the new tax rate for all and the services that should be provided. The County government would become the new Metro government, all fairly done by the vote of the governed.

March 10, 2013 at 11:13 a.m.
MasterChefLen said...

Based on the incompetence, mismanagement, cronyism, and downright corruption of people running Chattanooga in the past 8 years, the push for a Metro government would be a tough sell to the county residents. The annexation proponents are probably supporters of soon to be ex-Mayor (and somewhat dictator) Ron Littlefield and his "rubberstamp city council" buddies (Jack Benson, Pam Ladd, Manny Rico, & Andre McGary).

March 10, 2013 at 2:07 p.m.
nucanuck said...

MCL,

If the City were to vote give up their charter, the county residents would not be entitled to vote on a City matter. The County would simply be the only government remaining for for what had been the City. The County would run the whole show.

Since only City residents would have the right to vote to give up their own charter, that would make them your equal partners in EVERYTHING (think taxes). Compared to that option, annexation is a sweet deal for County residents. Think about it.

Think it can't happen?

March 10, 2013 at 2:38 p.m.
MasterChefLen said...

nucanuck, you are obviously a supporter of some kind of metro government rule and/or further annexation. Given your fervent support for either further annexation and/or metro government rule, one would think your motives are not entirely pure from your the so-called "far share" perspective, you would obviously have something to gain by this not just a so-called lightened tax burdon. Admit it, you are a soon to be ex-Mayor Ron Littlefield and his "rubberstamp city council" supporter. Admit it for all to see.

March 10, 2013 at 3:49 p.m.
nucanuck said...

MCL,

I have opposed Littlefield from the get-go and I have very little property or investment left in the US. When I did live in Chattanooga I always believed that some form of tax equalization needed to happen between City and County. County used to mean rural a hundred years ago...that's no longer the case. We are one urban entity for the most part and should be treated as such.

If we are not one entity, then City residents should not pay County taxes. It's as simple as that.

March 10, 2013 at 4:06 p.m.
nucanuck said...

MCL,

A simple question: when you are out-of-town do you say that you are from Chattanooga or do you say Hamilton County?

I already know the answer.

March 10, 2013 at 4:14 p.m.
MasterChefLen said...

nucanuck: I tell people that I live in Southeast, TN. I would not want to tell people that I live near Chattanooga on account of the corruption of the people running that city. It's giving Chicago and and Detroit a run for the money in regard to corruption.

March 10, 2013 at 4:22 p.m.
nucanuck said...

MCL,

Think of the picture that is conjured up in the mind of an outsider when you say Southeast Tennessee. The end of a bad road comes to mind.

You may know more than the rest of us, but I never felt that corruption in Chattanooga was particularly bad. Now if you want to talk about low level of competence, that's a different discussion. That may have been from all those workers from beyond the city/state limits

March 10, 2013 at 8:13 p.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

It is easy for nucanuck to advocate for bringing people in the county to the yoke of city taxation. He is not affected in any way, shape or form. Wait, maybe he wants to maximise the tax base for the city so the next time he comes back to visit he can be assured that money has been confiscated for another asinine field of sculptures. Maybe he is hoping for some improvements to golf courses which are absolutely inappropriately owned by the city. Maybe he just thinks everyone should have to live with the tax burden he has volunteered for himself by moving to Canada. At any rate, he should recuse himself from this discussion and let the area tax payers deal with it.

March 10, 2013 at 9:45 p.m.
Deeds said...

Our plight is a little different In my county most folks even town folks do there major shopping in towns close by Most schools are in the county as is the hospital We have all the services provided by our county and do not need the town amenities A small golf course will close when the final hammer drops and it is annexed This has been open for 50 plus years and will be the area the town chooses to run a sewer line through that and the town taxes would spell doom . The town lost population in the last census and need us to obtain the right ratio for grants.The cost to give our neighborhood what we already have is over 5 and a half million dollars Less that 100 houses and a golf course . There is no industry in our county homes are empty So the use of the golf course for building is a moot point. We tried to be included in the NC bill but we were too small and our House Representative was retiring So taxation without representation is about right. It will take the town over 10 to 20 years to make back the money used in the taking of an area that needs nothing and does not use the town. Go Figure

March 10, 2013 at 9:52 p.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

Can Hixson incorporate and protect itself from the gaping maw of Chattanooga?

http://www.wnd.com/2013/03/suburbs-secede-from-atlanta/

March 10, 2013 at 9:59 p.m.
nucanuck said...

BRP,

Then you would get a Hixon tax and a County tax. Is that OK?

March 11, 2013 at 12:49 a.m.

I am sure Chattanooga would love a metro government where we fix your 200 year old sewers and pay for more purple Rhinos. Keep in mind that Chattanooga has annexed most of the commercial property in the county. I pay sales tax at Publix that in no way benefits me. I drive on an Interstate (federal dollars) and mainly county roads. Chattanooga has mismanaged their funds and now want those in the county to pay for it. You get much for your county taxes: jails (most of which are city residents incarcerated), Silverdale mainly city residents), schools (mainly city residents), health department (mainly city residents), Er;anger (a lot of indigent care from city residents). Free lunch, I hardly think so.

March 11, 2013 at 4:39 p.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

nucanuck said... "Then you would get a Hixon tax and a County tax. Is that OK?"

Much preferable to Chattanooga tax and County tax. Hixson has not yet completely succumbed to progressive fantasies of quality of life through government.

March 11, 2013 at 4:42 p.m.
nucanuck said...

nfa, remember that city taxpayers are also paying your same county taxes. That's why you have such a good deal. Take that money away and the obvious advantage of having access to all the services that come with a population center, and you guys would be screaming and/or moving for lack of work.

Free-loaders in denial are still free-loaders.

March 11, 2013 at 5:37 p.m.
doubled said...

Sorry nucanuck but your arguement is wrong (and I believe you probably work for the city and like the paycheck). Note that I have lived in a city for 11 years and we live in the dark in our subdivision like 9 other subdivisions that have no street lights, a plan of service that is required under chapter 1101 state law. But this law has no mechanism for enforcement (and the corrupt mayors know this). Our corrupt mayor facilitated this problem by releasing bonds to developers who were "very supportive of his campaign". Collecting taxes for services not provided is stealing from the citizens, plain and simple. The mayor kept annexing while areas in the city lack infrastructure and are in decline. Our money gets dumped into a "live work play village" (code for agenda 21 if you do your research). I would LOVE to get out of the city and live in the county on a nice piece of land without the $1,000 extra costs, grief of the city, and its politics. Stop the property rights grab. There's a reason why the rest of the states stopped it as this practice violates our Constitutional rights..no debate needed.

April 25, 2013 at 1:16 a.m.
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