Bill allowing voters in unincorporated areas to decide on annexation dies after filibuster

An annexation bill that could have given back reins to voters in unincorporated areas died on the Senate floor on Sunday.

An annexation bill that could have given back reins to voters in unincorporated areas died on the Senate floor on Sunday.

A bill that would require voter approval before the annexation of an unincorporated area occurs died on the Senate floor during a filibuster by Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, May 28.

Menéndez spoke about military concerns near San Antonio. When land is annexed, he said, zoning regulations can be applied.

“Compatible land use is immensely important to the viability of our military installations and to the training areas near Joint Base San Antonio,” Menéndez said.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, previously said her bill would have streamlined the annexation process, taking it from what could be a matter of multiple years to a few weeks. It would also prevent cities from annexing areas merely to extend its planning, zoning, health or safety ordinances to the area.

“It’s meaningful, transparent and provides a voice for all citizens,” Campbell said of the bill.

Residents in areas designated within Austin’s extraterritorial jurisdiction do not receive city services, including utilities, and cannot vote in city elections. Individuals living in these regions do not pay city taxes, but the area can be annexed by the city, given procedural requirements. These requirements include notification of property owners and public hearings, said Virginia Collier, a principal planner in the City of Austin’s Planning and Zoning Department.

“Public hearings provide persons interested in annexation an opportunity to be heard,” Collier said.

The House had previously passed an amendment to the bill by Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, that would have protected River Place from annexation. The area is currently slated for full annexation by the City of Austin this December.

In 2009, the community entered a strategic partnership agreement with the city for the purpose of annexation, allowing the neighborhood to delay annexation for eight years with Austin. It also permitted residents a vote in city elections without having to pay Austin property taxes. The agreement handed over its ownership of water and wastewater facilities to the city as a limited district while maintaining its operations.

River Place residents, however, have been searching for options to disannex, or reverse the process, before they are fully incorporated into the city of Austin.

The River Place Disannexation Political Action Committee formed to oppose the maneuver and several candidates in the May election of River Place Municipal Utility District officers opposed the move. Tim Mattox, a board member for the River Place home owner’s association, has been spearheading the effort for the HOA. He said rallying the community wasn’t difficult.

“We are calling on the Governor to include the issue of forced annexation and the language of SB 715 as part of a special session,” he said. “The people's business has not been completed, and property rights must be upheld.”


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