New law gives property owners veto power over annexation
Opponents of Marvin’s involuntary annexation got good news June 18 as state lawmakers gave property owners the power to veto an annexation by filing a petition.
Once enacted, the new law places Marvin’s impending annexation on hold while the Union County Board of Elections mails a petition form to the 1,440 property owners subject to the village’s 2008 annexation ordinance.
If 60 percent or more of the petitions are signed and returned to the board, indicating a property owner’s opposition, the annexation is then denied under the law. Marvin will then have to wait 36 months before another annexation of the same properties can be attempted.
“I believe more than 40 percent of the homeowners in our annexation area want to be part of Marvin” Mayor Pro Tem Ron Salimao said. “We have a lot to offer, I am confident the petition will prove that.”
The law specifies that within 30 days of becoming law, which could be as soon as July 27, the county tax assessors office will provide the board with a list of the parcels included in Marvin’s annexation ordinance, as well as a list of owners. The board has five business days to prepare the petitions and mail them to the address of record. Property owners then have 130 days to sign and return their petitions, after-which the board will compile the results and within 10 days notify the Marvin Council of the outcome.
When contacted, John Whitney, director of the Union County Board of Elections, stated he was waiting for instructions from the State Board of Elections on the process – a process unique in his experience.
Councilman Ross Overby responded to a request for a comment on the Annexation Reform law by email, where he said the Marvin annexation was a firm and completed legal decision subject to appeal in the courts.
“Fearing the legal appeal process, a small group is using personal legislative influence to have a legal process nullified to serve their personal interests,” Overby said. “Is it constitutional to have legislation, driven by the personal influence of the few plaintiffs in the appeal process, interfere with an ongoing judicial process?”
Sen. Tommy Tucker is listed as a co-sponsor of the bill, SB27, one of two bills enacted that forces Marvin’s annexation through the petition to deny process.
“I was a co-sponsor on the bill when it was filed as a annexation moratorium bill,” Tucker said, “and my name remains on it, even though it was completely changed in committee. I voted for the [new version].
“I have spoken to people in Walden Pond, long before either of these bills came before the Senate. I’ve been on the record against ETJ (Extraterritorial Jurisdiction) and involuntary annexation since the 1990’s.
“The annexation law hasn’t been changed in 52 years. The law needed to be revised.”
Marvin council members argue however that a fair annexation bill wouldn’t just focus on currently contested proposals.
“If the proposed legislation is not there to serve personal interests then the bill should nullify all annexations implemented over the past 10 years which do not meet the new standards for annexation,” Overby argued.
Annexation reform and moratoriums were the subject of much debate in the legislative session that ended last week. At one point more the five different bills were submitted to the General Assembly for consideration. House Bill 845; Reform of Involuntary Annexation Laws, passed by very large margins in both the Senate and the House. It features the aforementioned petition to deny ordinance, as well as specific sewer, water and public safety requirements that must be provided to annexed properties.
Municipalities that do not offer sewer and water utilities will no longer qualify to involuntary annex property, however voluntary annexation remains