ROGERSVILLE - The Rogersville Board of Mayor and Aldermen took steps Tuesday to prevent a technicality from costing the city its westward annexation, which has been contested by a lawsuit.
In November, the BMA approved the third and final reading of an ordinance annexing 525 acres and approximately 275 homes on both sides of Highway 11-W, extending west from the city limits slightly more than a mile. Within a month, a group of people taken into the city by the annexation filed a lawsuit seeking for the annexation to be vacated. Those people are represented by a lawyer associated with the Knoxville-based anti-annexation group Citizens for Home Rule.
Before the beginning of Tuesday's BMA meeting, City Attorney Bill Phillips convened board members in a private executive session to discuss that lawsuit.
Then during the meeting, Phillips explained publicly that the annexation had one technical flaw that needs to be corrected.
"The plan of services, when it was published in the newspaper, did not have the location of three copies of the plan of services where they could be picked up during business hours and reviewed," Phillips said. "I'm sure everybody who asked for a copy of the plan of services was given a copy, and I don't think there's any question that everybody had notice of it. But in order to clear that up, it's my recommendation that we readopt the plan of services."
The lawsuit listed that technicality as one of the plaintiffs' grounds for vacating the annexation.
In accordance with Phillips' recommendation, the BMA voted unanimously Tuesday in favor of the first reading of a new plan of services ordinance. There will be a second reading and a public hearing at next month's regular monthly meeting on Feb. 13.
A total of three readings are required.
To clear up the technical flaw, the new ordinance calls for a copy of the plan of services to be available for review during business hours at the city recorder's office at City Hall, at the Rogersville Water Commission, and at the county register of deeds office. Those locations will also be advertised in the newspaper when the ordinance is published.
And, with the change in the plan of services ordinance, the annexation ordinance must also be amended, and the first reading of that amendment was approved unanimously Tuesday as well.
The second reading and public hearing for the annexation ordinance amendment will also take place Feb. 13.
Phillips said after the meeting he doesn't anticipate this "backtracking" on the plan of services' technical flaw to have a negative impact on Rogersville's defense in the lawsuit.
"I don't know if it was a fatal flaw, but I don't want to take any chances," Phillips said. "All the statute says is the ordinance does not become effective until a plan of services has been adopted. If they (the plaintiffs ) are correct, a plan of services hasn't been validly adopted, so the ordinance is going to sit there until one is."
Phillips noted that the annexation hadn't taken effect anyway because the lawsuit was filed within 30 days of the final approval. The annexation will remain invalid unless the lawsuit is resolved in Rogersville's favor.
The lawsuit was filed in Hawkins County Chancery Court. No hearing dates have been set as of yet.