Fifth lawsuit challenges Rock Springs annexations

Matthew Lane • Jan 3, 2008 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — The number of lawsuits filed to stop Kingsport from annexing in the Rock Springs community has risen to five.

For over than a year, Kingsport has been working to annex nearly 1,000 acres in the Rock Springs community — 10 areas that lead up to two major developments off Rock Springs Road: a 330-home neighborhood called “The Edinburgh” and the city’s new John Adams Elementary School.

Last year the Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved six annexations in the Rock Springs community — both portions of Area 3, the south side of Area 5, and all of Areas 1, 2 and 4.

Property owners in five of the areas have filed lawsuits in Sullivan County Chancery Court challenging the annexations. The deadline for residents to file suit from Area 4 is Jan. 17 — 30 days from when the annexation was approved by the BMA.

The latest lawsuit has been filed by property owners in the south side of Area 3 — William and Judy Smith and John Gray.

All of the lawsuits were filed by Knoxville attorney David Buuck, who is associated with Citizens for Home Rule. CHR is a not-for-profit advocacy organization located in Knoxville that assists residents in filing lawsuits to prevent annexations.

Buuck is also representing more than 100 Hawkins County residents who last March filed a lawsuit to prevent Rogersville from annexing 525 acres and approximately 275 homes on both sides of Highway 11-W. Rogersville attorney Bill Phillips said the matter should go to trial in late spring.

All of the Rock Springs lawsuits are similar and make the same claims — the land owners never requested annexation, and the ordinance passed to annex their property is an exercise of power not conferred by law.

The city of Kingsport has not filed a response to any of the suits, and no court date has been set.

“When the state legislature adopted Public Chapter 1101, clearly they acknowledged the need for cities to grow, and the need for an orderly mechanism to allow that growth to occur,” said Tim Whaley, spokesman for the city. “All of the areas being challenged have long been established as being within Kingsport’s urban growth boundary, and therefore, legal areas under state law for the city to comprehensively incorporate in a planned manner that greatly benefits existing residents of Rock Springs.”

Whaley said Kingsport intends to have all of the lawsuits tried in court within a year.

The lawsuits have managed to delay the effective date of some of the annexations — Areas 1, 2, 3 and the south side of Area 5 all had effective dates of Jan. 1, 2008. In other words, because of the lawsuits, the annexed property is not a part of the city.

All 10 areas have gone before the Kingsport Regional Planning Commission, and the BMA will receive the remaining areas as follows — Area 5 in January, Area 6 in February, Area 7 in March, and Area 8 in April. The effective date of annexation for Area 5 is March 5, while the effective date on Areas 6, 7 and 8 will be the end of August.

The 10 areas proposed to be annexed include about 969 acres and at least 585 people. The cost to provide water and sewer to these areas is estimated to be $2.33 million and $6 million, respectively.

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