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Thread: Annexations

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    Cyburbian thinknik's avatar
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    Annexations

    My small town city adminstration has an agressive policy of annexation on its borders as an economic strategy to increase income. Annexations, Comp Plan changes and rezonings occur simultaneously. As a result, to our north we have the demolition of a historic Donald Ross golf course in favor of 470 single family home PUD, to our south is an eruption of Home Depot, Target, Steak and Shake, Wendy's etc., so you may understand why I wonder if this is a good policy.

    What IS the opinion of annexation by professional planners? Pros and cons.

    Are there any studies or papers that discuss the pros and cons of the subject available to read?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by thinknik
    My small town city adminstration has an agressive policy of annexation on its borders as an economic strategy to increase income. Annexations, Comp Plan changes and rezonings occur simultaneously. As a result, to our north we have the demolition of a historic Donald Ross golf course in favor of 470 single family home PUD, to our south is an eruption of Home Depot, Target, Steak and Shake, Wendy's etc., so you may understand why I wonder if this is a good policy.

    What IS the opinion of annexation by professional planners? Pros and cons.

    Are there any studies or papers that discuss the pros and cons of the subject available to read?
    I know many FLA cities that seem to be annexing, just to annex...to make themselves "big". I would much rather see a unified gov't where the cities and counties can work together instead of completing against each other for "economic development"....but that might be a dream. Maybe the alt. is for the cities to annex every piece of the county, that way there is no more county to compete with and more room to work with.

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    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Iowa's City Development board won't approve annexations where the city cannot provide services within two years. That said, a few towns have gotten around that for political reasons. If the annexation is for iminate development, it's ok. If it is just for a land grab, that is different. If you have read some of my posts, you know I don't have a problem with commercial development.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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    Cyburbian Plus
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    Quote Originally posted by thinknik
    ... to our north we have the demolition of a historic Donald Ross golf course in favor of 470 single family home PUD, ...so you may understand why I wonder if this is a good policy.
    Q. What no fight keep the golf course for recreation/open space ?

  5. #5
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    I think not of annexations.....because I live & work in NH....and every area of the state, save a portion of the White Mountain National Forest is an incorporated area.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

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    Quote Originally posted by NHPlanner
    I think not of annexations.....because I live & work in NH....and every area of the state, save a portion of the White Mountain National Forest is an incorporated area.
    New England is wierd, man.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by NHPlanner
    I think not of annexations.....because I live & work in NH....and every area of the state, save a portion of the White Mountain National Forest is an incorporated area.
    Jurisdictions here just wish they could get rid of county islands!

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    Cyburbian thinknik's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JNA
    Q. What no fight keep the golf course for recreation/open space ?
    The city, developer and their attorneys are in a quagmire of litigation initiated by environmentalists to save the course. But don't we know the eventual ending of that story?

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    Cyburbian the north omaha star's avatar
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    Nebraska has very laxed annexation laws. The land to be annexed only needs to be unincorporated, less than 10,000 folks and a couple of other stipulations. With that being said, Omaha has been gobbling up land left and right. Soon, Omaha and Lincoln (used to be 60 miles away) will touch.

    Some development have gotten smart. They have developed Sanitation Improvement Districts (SIDs) to prevent from being annexed into the city. The subdivision pays for its own utilities hookup including water and sewer. Somehow they have able to avoid being annexed. I'm not sure what the legal ins and outs are.

    Some cities like Baltimore and St. Louis can't annex at all. It's killing them, because of the declining tax base, poor school system, you know the usual.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
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    It's a nightmare here in my county...we oppose so many...damn cities annex in violation of state rules regularly. I really miss California and the Local Agency Formation Commissions for that reason.

  11. #11
    Mod Gedunker's avatar
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    Indiana has made annexation next-to-impossible. The regulatory process is confusing, long, and clearly beset with opportunities for communities to mis-step and have to go back to "Go" (without our $200 ).

    Like giff57, I support annexation in anticipation of immediate development, but not as a land grab. Caution should be advised as well: the cost of bringing and then delivering services to the annexation area quite possibly means the dimunition of services elsewhere.
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    Cyburbian Budgie's avatar
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    IMO, proactive annexation before land is "ripe" for development is a very poor and simplistic strategy for economic development. Questions to be asked - Is the City willing to provide public services to the annexed are prior to development? Are there areas with adequate public facilities within the city that are underutilized? Why take on more area if there are existing public investment being underused?

    If your city is annexing without redevelopment and infill, the activity center of the city can shift, which creates deteriorating existing neighborhoods and commercial areas. Economic development can be a double edged sword. Yes property values and sales tax increases, but so do the cost of public services and the damage to existing businesses (especially in a small town) can lower property values and harm the overall economic health of the city. Grow your own that way wealth stays in your community.

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    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by H
    I know many FLA cities that seem to be annexing, just to annex...to make themselves "big". I would much rather see a unified gov't where the cities and counties can work together instead of completing against each other for "economic development"....but that might be a dream. Maybe the alt. is for the cities to annex every piece of the county, that way there is no more county to compete with and more room to work with.
    Off-Topic:
    San Antonio & Bexar County considered doing unigov several years ago, but Texas Constitution prohibits it.

    On-Topic:
    It used to be much easier to do annexations in Texas, but certain cities to the north and east of us got a little to liberal with their annexations going out to grab freeway development with weird little 30-foot-wide strips. Now we have to do these three-year studies if the area contains more than 100 occupied parcels. At the end of the three years there is a 31 day window to adopt. If you drop an area from the annexation plan or fail to annex it at the prescribed time you can't annex the parcels for as long as five years! Plus they've added a bunch of weird rules about dimensions of annexed areas that conflict with other state annexation laws. I know a lot of states have it far worse than Texas, but considering how lax the laws used to be here, it was a pretty rough change.

    Florida has some great examples of stupid annexation. I want to say its Jacksonville that has the second largest incorporated area at around 1000 square miles

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

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    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by the north omaha star
    Nebraska has very laxed annexation laws. The land to be annexed only needs to be unincorporated, less than 10,000 folks and a couple of other stipulations. With that being said, Omaha has been gobbling up land left and right. Soon, Omaha and Lincoln (used to be 60 miles away) will touch.

    Some development have gotten smart. They have developed Sanitation Improvement Districts (SIDs) to prevent from being annexed into the city. The subdivision pays for its own utilities hookup including water and sewer. Somehow they have able to avoid being annexed. I'm not sure what the legal ins and outs are.

    Some cities like Baltimore and St. Louis can't annex at all. It's killing them, because of the declining tax base, poor school system, you know the usual.
    Didn't Nebraska make it illegal for a city to cross into a new county back in the 1980s? Maybe that law was repealed.

    I agree that no annexation is far worse that unimpeded annexation. IMHO, one of the biggest drags on the statewide economies of Pennsylvania and upstate New York is the inability of their respective cities (especially the small to mid-sized ones) to annex land. They are pretty much all 'built out' and cannot do things like create new industrial parks, etc, to grow their areas' economic bases.

    Other big cities in states that allow annexation are also landlocked by incorporated suburbs and cannot annex, these include Milwaukee, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and Cleveland. In the cases of Milwaukee, Detroit and maybe Cleveland, it has clearly hurt them, too.

    Mike

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    Cyburbian Budgie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman
    It used to be much easier to do annexations in Texas, but certain cities to the north and east of us got a little to liberal with their annexations going out to grab freeway development with weird little 30-foot-wide strips.
    In north Texas even the small towns do this. You can be 7 miles for a small town and see a city limits sign. Most city limits in north Texas look like octopi with thin tentacles running along major roadways. The main reason to do this is to protect land for future city expansion. It sure would be nice if Texas had County land use controls, which are prohibited by state law.

    "This land is my land, this land is your land, I'm a Texas tiger, You're a liberal weiner ....blah, blah, blah."

  16. #16
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Annexation discussion is making me think a bit more, which is quite an accomplishment for today. Cities behave as businesses in that they both look to earn as much money as possible to produce enough services or goods to adequetly satisfy their consumers. If cities are unable to grow (outward) and capture the changing markets, the city will fail, just like businesses that fail to adjust to changing markets.

    It seems that the recent city-county metro mergers of Louisville, Nashville, etc. should put them on better economic footing. Competition for tax dollers in the region should be lessoned and cooperation to maximize development and tax dollars should occur. Has this occured on any scale yet? Are the mergers successful?

    The downside to annexations is that newley annexed territory is mostly horribly low density in the midwest and further stretches the available capital improvement budget dollars. Also, this stretch fire protection and police protection budgets.

  17. #17
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Budgie
    In north Texas even the small towns do this. You can be 7 miles for a small town and see a city limits sign. Most city limits in north Texas look like octopi with thin tentacles running along major roadways. The main reason to do this is to protect land for future city expansion. It sure would be nice if Texas had County land use controls, which are prohibited by state law.

    "This land is my land, this land is your land, I'm a Texas tiger, You're a liberal weiner ....blah, blah, blah."
    I just about well over laughing when I read that! I don't have a lot of room to talk about my city since it looks strikingly similar to one of those octopi up in the Metroplex. The difference is my city actually incorporated looking like an octopus as a self defense against San Antonio. It causes massive headaches for me when dealing with whether a property is in the City, if so how much, etc. One of the state reps tried to get county land use controls last session, but it didn't go through. Maybe it'll happen someday. People are starting to get a little sick of the land-raping going on down here.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

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    Cyburbian thinknik's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Budgie
    Are there areas with adequate public facilities within the city that are underutilized? Why take on more area if there are existing public investment being underused? ... Yes property values and sales tax increases, but so do the cost of public services and the damage to existing businesses (especially in a small town) can lower property values and harm the overall economic health of the city.
    Thank you for your thoughtful answer. I am not well versed on the pros and cons of annexation as a public policy. I do know it has become the shining hope of my city's solvency. About 37% of the city's land is tax exempt (churches, an expanding college, state and federally owned structures), and in Florida who has no income tax, a lot of our municipal governments are funded primarily by ad valorem taxes. So annexations, particularly with high dollar commercial value, are a strategy to "balance" this 37% out.
    I don't worry so much about the additional costs to provide services since these annexations are contiguous around a tightly dense city. I do worry about the crudscape factor and the city's commercial shifting core away from downtown.

    But what I don't know anything about and so fear MOST are the negative factors of an ever shifting boundary of the city's edges.

    Maybe I am worrying over nothing.

    Any thoughts on what those factors might be?

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Budgie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by thinknik
    I do know it has become the shining hope of my city's solvency. About 37% of the city's land is tax exempt (churches, an expanding college, state and federally owned structures),
    Excellent observation. In small and mid-size towns a proliferation of tax exempt land uses can be a major fiscal drain, especially when clustered in downtown office space. I've heard a number of cities concerned about this phenomenon and the concentration of antique stores in downtowns.

    Does your city impose impact fees for new development to help cover the construction cost of new infrastructure, facilities and equipment? If not, I would still be concerned about the fiscal impact of annexation. Does the City proactively annex land without specific development proposals being made? Are these "build it and they will come" land grabs? Is there a high level of rural services?

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mgk920
    IMHO, one of the biggest drags on the statewide economies of Pennsylvania and upstate New York is the inability of their respective cities (especially the small to mid-sized ones) to annex land. They are pretty much all 'built out' and cannot do things like create new industrial parks, etc, to grow their areas' economic bases.
    I agree completely, and wonder how this will play out 20 years from now. Many of these cities face annual financial crises that result in massive property tax increases and cuts in services... compelling residents to move elsewhere... putting a greater burden on those left behind. It seems to be an unending cycle. The proliferation of tax exempt uses in small- and mid-sized cities exascerbates the situation. There are limited opportunities for growth. Meanwhile, adjacent towns are booming, and are able to limit their tax increases.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian thinknik's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Budgie
    Does your city impose impact fees for new development to help cover the construction cost of new infrastructure, facilities and equipment? If not, I would still be concerned about the fiscal impact of annexation. Does the City proactively annex land without specific development proposals being made? Are these "build it and they will come" land grabs? Is there a high level of rural services?
    Thank you for your interest!

    We do not have impact fees. The city uses the fact that the county surrounding our city DOES have more strenuous land development codes, impacts fees and wetland buffers. It part of an incentive plan to encourage annexation into the city. Its hugely successful and has caused land prices to rise in properties available for annexation (on the city boundaries). This is causing considerable angst and anger to the county officials.

    The city does do voluntary annexations, rezonings and Comp Plan changes simulanteously - it is not out "grabbing" land agressively. So maybe this isn't such a bad "strategy".

    Also, the city core is virtually a tourist and retail mecca; think t-shirt shops and tourist attractions -- not offices.

    Its poplution is around 11,000 - historically it has hovered around 9,000 and decreasing. The reason is we have been losing residents on the edges of the core to retail, B&B's as the tourist function grows. But now that residential annexations are occuring it is up to 11,000ish and will soon rise again another 10% or so when the golf course is demolished and its land built out with sf homes.

    I continue to be concerned with the fiscal impact to provide new services, the ever shifting boundaries and the loss of the city's "livable" aspects.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    New England is wierd, man.
    It's not just a New England thing. Every piece of Pennsylvania is incorporated too. It was weirder for me to leave the Northeast and try to wrap my head around the concept of there being places which have no local governments. "You mean people live in places that aren't places?! How can that be?"

  23. #23
    Mod Gedunker's avatar
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    There is an interesting study by a team of Purdue University profs that studied property taxes in a couple of northwest Indiana counties and found that single-family housing consumes substantially more in municipal services than it provides in property taxes. Business and industry consume less in services than they provide in property taxes. (Industry consumed about $0.32 for every property tax dollar paid). The point being, annexation of SFDs for property tax benefit is fools gold.
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  24. #24
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker
    There is an interesting study by a team of Purdue University profs that studied property taxes in a couple of northwest Indiana counties and found that single-family housing consumes substantially more in municipal services than it provides in property taxes. Business and industry consume less in services than they provide in property taxes. (Industry consumed about $0.32 for every property tax dollar paid). The point being, annexation of SFDs for property tax benefit is fools gold.
    Off-topic:
    I think cost of municipal services research should be required reading for any newley elected/appointed official or planning commission member.

    Of course, you can bring an official to the research - but you cannot make them think....

  25. #25
    Mod Gedunker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SGB
    Off-topic:
    I think cost of municipal services research should be required reading for any newley elected/appointed official or planning commission member.

    Of course, you can bring an official to the research - but you cannot make them think....
    Off-topic:
    There actually is training in Indiana by the Association of Cities and Towns and Indiana Planning Assn. Methinks they forget it as soon as they hit the golf course after the morning sessions.
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