How May a Home Rule City Annex Land?
Everything is bigger in Texas, they say, and sometimes cities grow in size by annexation. Such an expansion is governed by sets of procedures under state law as well as city charter for home rule cities.
A home rule city may manage its own affairs and looks to state law to see what it is proscribed from doing rather than to see what it may do in governing, according to the Texas Municipal League. There are more than 350 home rule cities in the state and these municipalities have populations of more than 5,000 inhabitants and operate under their own city charters.
When it comes to annexations, a general law city (which follows state provisions for what they are allowed to do) may generally only annex territory by voluntary petition of landowners or on request of area voters.
Now, a home rule city may also annex land under an annexation plan, or, in some cases, under an exemption from an annexation plan. There are many requirements for each type of annexation. While there are several permutations, for the purposes of this examination we will focus on some primary considerations and not each specific hypothetical scenario.
A home rule city derives its power to annex property from Chapter 43, Subchapter B of the Texas Local Government Code “according to rules as may be provided by the charter of the municipality.”
Typically, a home rule city charter gives it the power to fix its boundaries and annex areas.
Next, city officials must decide if area city wishes to annex falls under one of the exemptions in Texas Local Government Code 43.052(h). If so, Subchapter C-1 in Chapter 43 governs the annexation procedures. If not exempt, the city must place the proposed area in annexation plan and wait three years to annex under Chapter 43, Subchapter C.
Generally, an annexation plan entails a three-year period under which there is notification and planning for the ultimate provision of services from the city to the acquired area.
If a part of an area is designated for ad valorem purposes, such as agricultural, wildlife management, or timber management, the home rule city can enter into an agreement with such a landowner to provide for the continuation of the extraterritorial status of the area. Or, the landowner may agree to the annexation. These types of scenarios require further careful consideration.
Competition with Another City?
In most cases, a city may only annex an area that is contiguous with the current city limits. Section 43.035 extends this reach to areas adjacent to land that is subject to a development agreement, even if that area is not contiguous to the city limits. Under sections 43.022 and 43.051, a city may only annex an area that is within its extraterritorial jurisdiction and not within another city’s ETJ. For cities between 5,000 and 24,999 “inhabitants” (not census population), the ETJ is one mile, per section 42.021.
Landowners have been known to petition City A to be included in City A’s extraterritorial jurisdiction to avoid being annexed by City B. In some cases, this has resulted in a race between the cities, as City B tries to annex the new land before City A can add it to its ETJ. A Texas Court of Appeals has ruled that the race is determined by when the annexation proceeding is formally complete, not when it begins.
Procedures for annexations
Annexation procedures involve notifications to landowners, school districts, railroads and other entities, including state agencies, and the holding of public hearings. The city must also prepare in advance for how it will provide city services to an area to be annexed. Utility service providers should also be notified. After expiration of three years, City Council should meet and pass annexation ordinance and final service plan within 30 days. It is also recommended that a home rule city absorbing a population provide to document its annexation information as it pertains to voting rights.
Even the simplest annexations are complicated matters for home rule cities and best undertaken under the guidance of an expert city attorney.