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City annexations to become more difficult

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The Ellis County Press

ELLIS COUNTY - City annexations will be much harder, thanks to a bill co-authored by state Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie.

The proposed legislation, first introduced by Rep. Anna Mowery of Fort Worth, requires cities to hold an election before the area proposed for annexation is conducted.

A majority of votes cast is required before cities can proceed with annexations.

Currently, state law limits the amount of area a city with a population over 5,000, called a home-rule city, can take in. Cities with a population of less than that, called general-law, also have the authority to annex, but their requirements are much stricter.

Four cities in Ellis County are above the 5,000 mark in population and can annex a mile of unincorporated land each year.

'I have been aware for quite some time of how concerned the citizens of District 10 are of the state's annexation policies,' Pitts said. 'I think this bill will help put some power back in the hands of those that pay taxes and are affected the most by annexation.'

Red Oak City Manager Ken Pfeifer and Ennis City Manager Steve Howerton said they were not aware of the annexation bill, and could not comment at this time.

But Red Oak's annexation policies have been the source of much controversy in recent years. Last year, Pfeifer sent a letter to homeowners living near Palmer and Ferris detailing his city's intentions to take in land stretching towards Interstate Highway 45.

Hundreds of citizens in and around Ferris and Palmer packed weekly meetings and consulted with attorneys to combat Red Oak's attempt.

After hearing complaints and concerns, the Red Oak City Council voted 3-2 to not proceed with the annexations.

'The annexation issue is a dead issue,' said Red Oak City Councilman Danny Douthit recently. 'The city won't be [going back]. It's much harder now.'

Douthit has been a vocal opponent of annexations in the past, saying the rights of property owners are violated with cities annex.

'If people vote [to give permission] to the cities, that's a lot better than cities shoving [annexation] down your throat,' said Steve Salmon, vice president of Citizens Against Red Oak Aggression.

CAROA formed shortly after Red Oak detailed their annexation efforts and was instrumental in helping organize the anti-annexation efforts.

'It's [bill] a good step,' Salmon said.

For more information about the annexation bill's status, or to track another bill, visit http://www.capitol.state.tx.us.

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