The council’s action allows residents in both subdivisions to pursue a separate agreement with the city. If the agreements are approved, subdivision residents could pay for fire protection through Williamson County Emergency Services District No. 9 while staying in Leander’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ. Residents in a city’s ETJ have a city address but do not pay city taxes or receive city services, such as public utilities or fire and police protection.
The city of Leander is pursuing involuntary annexation—or annexation apartment from a landowner’s request—of 3,208 acres in the city’s ETJ. The land includes two properties the city owns as well as 16 separate areas that encompass several dozen private property owners.
Creek Meadow resident Skyler Williams said he and other residents reacted positively to the vote.
“I’m absolutely thrilled that the council made the correct and the responsible decision,” Williams said. “With a lot of these involuntary annexations, they’re doing things that don’t fiscally make sense for the people being annexed and the existing citizens of Leander.”
Williams said subdivision residents already receive fire protection from the city of Leander because the city's fire department is the nearest fire department to the area. Residents want to work with city staffers on an agreement that would allow both subdivisions to join ESD No. 9. As a result, area homeowners’ ESD taxes would pay the Leander Fire Department for fire emergency coverage, he said.
During the March 17 public hearing, many private landowners told the council they did not want to be annexed and did not need city services.
Council members did not respond to the landowners during the hearing. Leander Mayor Chris Fielder said city staffers are available to answer questions about annexation. He said the council is not permitted to interact with citizens during the public hearings.
Nine residents said they oppose the city's involuntary annexation of an 840-acre area located on either side of Bagdad Road/CR 179, between CR 280 and CR 281.
Mockingbird Hill Road resident Darrell Word said he and his wife bought their land in 1986.
“We purchased it because we liked to be in the rural area—very specifically because it was not in the city limits,” Word said. “We didn’t wish for the annexation. [But I’ll say] that when I received the information from you, I assumed that it had pretty well been decided.”
Other residents said they did not know how annexation would change what they are allowed to do with their properties.
For example, Mockingbird Hill Road resident Anthony Perez said he often transfers animals from his Burnet ranch to his Leander property, where he also tends a garden and orchard.
“I’m not sure what city limits is going to do to that [land],” Perez said. “It kind of terrifies me, to be honest with you. We’d be willing to pay for fire department to come out, if that ever had to happen. We maintain the [private] road ourselves. It’s a dirt road. Every bit of that land that’s in that triangle is not developed. There is nothing on that land.”
Williamson County Place 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman said that, as a resident, she opposes annexation. She said her family has owned a total of 550 acres since 1854.
The property overlaps two areas the council wants to annex, she said.
“Our land is a farm and undeveloped property," Birkman said. "And if we did decide to develop it in the future, we would work with you all on annexation."
City Manager Kent Cagle said the city wants to annex land for several reasons. A tract located outside a city’s limits is not governed by city zoning laws and landowners pay only county property taxes. However, if the city annexes that property, the city can set collect property tax revenue as well as set its own zoning standards for that property, Cagle said.
“We don’t want RV and boat storage on our major thoroughfares,” Cagle said. “There are lots of commercial retail, even residential, uses that would have more value than RV/boat storage or metal buildings, or mechanic shops or things that you see popping up on the periphery.”
Cagle said that because Central Texas cities are growing quickly, residents who move outside a city’s limits but within a city’s ETJ will find the city’s growth catching up to them.
“Someday we’re going to annex everything that’s in the ETJ so we won’t get substandard development,” Cagle said. “The decisions the council makes on annexation helps set [property] tax rates 10, 20, 30 years in the future. If you have higher quality development, you’re going to have higher quality tax base and therefore the opportunity for lower [tax] rates.”
This article has been edited to correct an error in City Manager Kent Cagle's title.