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Rock Springs resident files lawsuit in hopes of halting annexation

June 24th, 2007 12:00 am by Matthew Lane

KINGSPORT - A Sullivan County man said he doesn't see any benefit to being annexed by Kingsport, and because of that, he's filed a lawsuit against the city to prevent it.

Kingsport planners have been working for more than a year on annexing eight areas of land, nearly 1,000 acres, in the Rock Springs community - areas that lead up to a 330-unit housing development off Rock Springs Road called "The Edinburgh." The Board of Mayor and Aldermen has approved three annexations this year - Area 2 and portions of Areas 3 and 5.

Anyone wishing to challenge an annexation has 30 days from final BMA approval to do so. John Gray, who lives along Rock Springs Road and in Area 2, filed the lawsuit in Sullivan County Chancery Court on June 14 - exactly 30 days from when the BMA approved the annexation.

Knoxville attorney David Buuck filed the lawsuit on behalf of Gray. Buuck is associated with Citizens for Home Rule, a not-for-profit advocacy organization located in Knoxville, which assists residents in filing lawsuits to prevent annexations.

Gray's lawsuit makes a number of claims and arguments against annexation - that Gray never requested annexation and that the ordinance passed to annex Gray's property is an exercise of power not conferred by law.

Kingsport has no power to provide any services to the residents of Sullivan County that the residents do not already have or are not able to procure for themselves, the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit is seeking for the ordinance be vacated and the annexation be declared null and void.

Reached by phone on Friday, Gray said he just doesn't see any benefit from being annexed by the city.

"I'll be 77 in August. I've lived in Rock Springs all my life, and I've done without the city for 77 years. I don't see why I need it now," Gray said. "I'm retired, and the first thing I get into is more taxes, and I don't need that since I'm on Social Security.

"I built my house in 1963, put in a good septic system, and I've not spent a nickel on it since then, except for pumping it. And I've got a good garbage service and don't have to put up with one can. I don't see I'm gaining a thing."

Gray said he owns eight to nine acres of land and has been an avid hunter all his life.

"I'll pay taxes on my land, and I can't small game hunt on it anymore," he said.

Gray's property is on city water, and he said he was aware he lives within the city's urban growth boundary. Gray said he attended a Kingsport Regional Planning Commission meeting last year when the issue first came up but has not attended any of the BMA meetings where Area 2 was voted on.

Dave Light, spokesman for the city, said the city does not comment on pending litigation.

Gray's lawsuit marks the second such lawsuit filed against the city regarding annexations in the Rock Springs community.

In August, 10 residents of the Rock Springs community filed a lawsuit against the city, with the help of Citizens for Home Rule, to stop the annexation of Area 1.

One of the arguments of the lawsuit was the city failed to display the plan of services for Area 1 in three locations - as per state law. For Area 1, Kingsport posted the plan in two locations - City Hall and the planning office.

Realizing their mistake, city leaders pulled Areas 2 and 3 from the BMA's agenda in September and repealed Area 1, thus rendering the lawsuit moot. Area 1 has again received the endorsement of the Planning Commission but has not been brought before the BMA.

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