Court calls involuntary annex election

Weatherford Democrat, Maggie Fraser, 04/09/2018 –

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WD PhotoMembers of the Stop Involuntary Annexation in Parker County group gathered Monday at the courthouse to see the commissioners court call an election on the issue of involuntary annexation.

The Parker County Commissioners Court called an election on Monday that will allow voters outside a city’s limits to decide whether or not that city can annex their land, the first election of its kind in Texas history.

Stop Involuntary Annexation in Parker County collected far more than the required number of signatures for a petition to call the election in November, Elections Administrator Don Markum told the court.

The required number of signatures was 8,926, and the elections office received 15,026 signatures.

Of that number 9,162 signatures were accepted, and around 4,000 signatures weren’t counted because “they weren’t needed,” Markum said.

“It’s a privilege for our office to be part of this process, and to know our county will be the first to have this on their November ballot,” he said. “It’s kind of neat because we’ve already had other counties calling us to ask how we did this. Other counties want to follow, and it’s nice Parker County is taking the lead on this.”

Laura Hester, president of SIAPC, said the group was proud to lead the way in anti-annexation efforts across the state.

“We greatly appreciate the court standing behind us and for your vote today to move this onto the November ballot,” Hester said. “Parker County residents deserve the right to make a choice as to what happens with their property. We’re excited to lead the way for counties all across the state. We are now one step closer to stopping forced annexation in Parker County.”

Dedra Vick, SIAPC board member, said the group would encourage residents to vote in November.

“We want to thank our residents and our community and the people who went out and collected signatures,” she said. “We are ready for the campaign … This is going to be for nothing unless we get out there and vote for it in November. It’s not a big election, but we have to get out there and vote.”

The petition began circulating in August 2017, when Weatherford announced its plans to annex areas north of the city, including the Zion Hill neighborhood.

Residents who would have been affected by the annexation protested the plans in droves at city council meetings and on the courthouse square.

The backlash – along with Parker County’s State Rep. Phil King pursuing the issue in the state legislature – caused Weatherford to drop annexation proceedings for the time being.

During the 85th legislative session in August 2017, King added an amendment to a bill that allowed Parker County residents the chance to prevent involuntary annexation.

The law designated the 10 counties with the largest populations in Texas as Tier 2 counties, and required cities to put proposed annexations to a vote by the people who would be affected.

King’s amendment will allow counties with populations less than 500,000, like Parker County, to petition to move up to Tier 2 status.

If voters approve Tier 2 status in November, cities will have to seek approval from voters in extraterritorial jurisdictions before annexation can happen.

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