Fate of River Place annexation in hands of legislators

 A bill that would require voter approval before an unincorporated area is annexed by a city died on the Texas Senate floor during a filibuster by Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, on May 28. The bill will be revisited during a special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 6 and set to begin July 18.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, previously said her bill would streamline 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 planning, zoning, health or safety ordinances to the area.

Sen. Donna Campbell Sen. Donna Campbell[/caption]

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

Residents in Austin’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ, do not receive city services, do not pay city taxes and cannot vote in city elections. However, the area can be annexed by the city—given procedural requirements, including notification of property owners and public hearings, said Virginia Collier, a principal planner in Austin’s Planning and Zoning Department.

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

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

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

River Place residents have been searching for options to de-annex, or reverse the process, before they are fully incorporated into the city.

The River Place Disannexation Political Action Committee formed to oppose the maneuver. Tim Mattox, a board member for the River Place homeowners association, has been spearheading the effort for the HOA.

“We are now more determined than ever to take charge of our community’s path forward,” Mattox said.


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