KINGSPORT — The Tennessee Legislature approved a measure last week restricting city-initiated annexations for the next 13 months to allow a committee time to review and evaluate current annexation laws and practices and return with recommendations next January. However, the measure does leave Kingsport with some wiggle room when it comes to the annexation of residential property.
Legislators approved in a conference committee report House Bill 475 and Senate Bill 279, thus placing a moratorium on city-initiated annexations from April 15, 2013 through May 15, 2014. Originally, a two-year moratorium was proposed. The 13-month moratorium affects residential and agricultural property, says nothing about commercial or industrial property and excludes any county having a metropolitan form of government.
The measure does not affect owner-requested annexations or annexations by referendum.
The report further states the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) shall complete a comprehensive review and evaluation of current annexation law and practices and submit a written report, with any proposed legislation, by January 14, 2014.
Of the Northeast Tennessee delegation, only Rep. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol), voted against the measure.
“I had talked with five different groups. The Bristol and Kingsport chambers of commerce, the cities of Bristol and Kingsport, and Eastman Chemical (Company) and all of them said they had grave concerns with it, that it could hurt some of their development and prospects,” Lundberg said. “Bristol and Kingsport talked about how it could hamper development of retail and tourism initiatives that are going on, so I didn’t think it was good policy for the folks I represent.”
A number of cities across the state, including Kingsport, attempted to opt out of the legislation, but in the end, none — other than the metro governments — were allowed to opt out.
“Certainly, we’re disappointed (the legislature) felt compelled to put the moratorium in, but at the same time when you study what they’ve done, you still have annexation by request for all types of zones, and it does not speak to commercial or industrial zones,” said Kingsport City Manager John Campbell.
Earlier this month, Campbell announced Kingsport would be scaling back its annexation efforts this year, due to the financial restrictions from previous annexations in the Colonial Heights and Rock Springs communities. Kingsport would not continue to annex in the Colonial Heights community this year, possibly only looking to bring in one or two smaller neighborhoods in the Fall Creek community.
“We have gone through a period where we knew we would be slowing down, to make sure we stay very proactive with long-term budget planning, and we knew there would be a semi-delay for a year or two to make sure all of the sewer projects got finished,” Campbell said.
However, with all of the talk recently about the moratorium, Campbell said Kingsport has received an uptick in the number of residents coming in and talking with the Planning Department about being annexed.
“Each request, we’d look at where it’s located and if it could be done in an economical fashion,” Campbell said. “Typically what happens is when someone wants to comes in, we ask them, ‘How do your neighbors feel?’ ” In addition, Campbell said he believes if a majority of the residents of a particular neighborhood want to be annexed, Kingsport could initiate an annexation of the entire neighborhood by ordinance. “We think this is still viable ... under this moratorium,” Campbell said