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Hearing becomes a kangaroo court

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The Ellis County Press

Citizens group forms, opposes new taxes

WILMER - More than 60 people packed into the council chambers and settled in for what was to become a protest over the city’s planned annexation of 57 properties outside the city limits.

During the Thursday, April 15 council meeting, Councilwoman Vicky Vandygriff made the motion to call for a public hearing and to direct the city staff to prepare a service plan and a developers agreement for the properties listed in the annexation proceedings.

The public hearing notice was placed in the city’s official newspaper The Ellis County Press once in the April 29.

According to property owners, the service plan hasn’t been provided.

" This is a kangaroo court, just reminiscent of Wilmer’s past," said Michael Cook, speaking on behalf of Citizens Against New Taxes, a group formed entirely to oppose Wilmer’s extra-territorial jurisdictions annexation plan.

"You[ Mayor Jeff Steele] really should learn the law, you are not obeying anything."

Every city, general law or not, has to do an annexation plan according to Local Government Code 43.052.  

During the public hearing, the city claimed they are exempt under the code.

"We do not [on this annexation] because we are exempted under 43.052(h)(1) in that the area you are annexing contains fewer than 100 separate tracts of land on which one or more residential buildings are located [on each tract]," said Mayor Jeffrey Steele to Attorney Misty Ventura, representing some property owners.

Steele said there is a service plan, but they aren’t required to show them.

Raymond Beadle, a property owner who said he owns about 25 percent of the property on the annexation list, hand delivered his petition against the move to Steele.

"I think they are going to do whatever they want, but I do own a huge amount of property on this list," said Beadle.

Steele promised citizens as soon as the gavel was hit and the motion was passed Thursday, June 17, all property owners would have city water access and emergency personnel.

One local, has lived on her property for over 30 years, claims there is no need to pay the additional city taxes because she has a well and has been getting her water from there.

"We are in county, so we still get emergency help when needed."

While the majority of the land owners appear to be in opposition, there were a few supporting it.

Joe Aldrich, a neighbor to some property owners said he will be glad when he can start calling the city on the fireworks being shot off.

One of the tracts, sits a metal building for fireworks and they are not allowed to be shot off within the city limits

According to Aldrich, you can’t complain to the city if it’s not within the city limits, but once they are zoned in, they will have to follow the rules as well.

Holding two public hearings in one night, the question amongst those attending was whether or not this is legal.

"It is legal for the city to hold two public hearings in one night – it is also common for cities to do this.  It satisfies the letter of the law – even if it does not satisfy the spirit, " said Ventura, a Dallas property attorney.

The fight isn’t over.

"Our lawsuit’s original petition has been drawn up and will be filed immediately following the city council’s passage of the annexations," said Cook, management consultant for C.A.N.T.

"Contrary to the belief among some citizens that the speakers were purposely turned down, we [C.A.N.T.] believe the city wants everyone and everything heard, which is the supposed objective of public hearings."

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