Monday, July 24, 2006

Mississippi Annexation Law

Currently if a town or city wants to annex property into a city all that needs to be done is the Municipality gives notice and files a petition for annexation in the proper Chancery Court. Typically, cities hold city council (or other type depending on the type of city government) meetings to get a feel for how those in the proposed annexation area (PAA) feel about becoming part of their city. It is at this point those in the PAA sometimes say, “O.K” but more often than not (it seems) they say “We don’t want to be part of the city that is why we moved out here”. However, in Mississippi those in the PAA do not have much of a say in the process. The municipality in their Chancery petition are supposed to address 12 factors that are “indicia” of reasonableness, under the assumption that if the Annexation request is reasonable it should happen.

There are several problems with this system. First, those getting annexed do not have a say except an uphill battle in court (Uphill because the standard begins against them since all that is required is reasonableness). Second, those getting annexed have to organize and hire attorneys by themselves to fend off the annexor; this is unlike the city which typically has a city attorney and who is paid by city taxes (and the taxes of those who live in the PAA if the city wins the annexation suit). Third, this system of annexation promotes inefficiency, which costs taxpayers in the long run. The system is basically set up to have a city act, have those who do not want to be in the city file suit, a Chancellor render an opinion, an appeal to the MS Supreme Court, and if the city does not comply with the annexation conditions (providing city services to the PAA) in a timely manner then we look at yet another suit seeking deannexation. It is this possibility of deannexation that the MS Supreme Court has said is the way those in the PAA get a say in the process (by getting annexed in and then trying to vote or sue themselves back out once they are in). How fair or efficient is this process? For more on the deannexation process giving those in the PAA a fair shake I highly recommend Justice Ed Pittman’s concurrence in 644 So.2d 1168.

This is, however, a process that may be changing in the future, hopefully. In the 2005 legislative session the following bills: House Bills 187, 216, 292, 483, 643, 761, 783, 796, 1169; House Concurrent Resolution 32; and Senate Bill 2889 all dealt with changing the MS annexation process. (I am still trying to calculate the 2006 bills). Most of these bills focus on having an election to determine if the annexation is appropriate. Different systems can have just the city vote, can have just the PAA vote, or can require both the city and the PAA to vote and both approve. The last two of these election systems seems more fair, to me, than our current annexation process.

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