A group of North Texas residents have proven that you can fight city hall – and win.
Collin County landowners who for weeks have been fighting forced annexation by the City of McKinney won their fight Tuesday night when the city council reversed course, voting unanimously to drop its annexation plans.
“I feel like our voices were heard and the mayor and the council listened and made the right choice,” said property owner Shannon Blake, who’s been a vocal opponent of the city’s land grab.
Blake is one of over a hundred landowners in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) who received notices in September that McKinney planned to annex their land – with or without their consent.
The city had hoped to forcibly annex the land before a new law takes effect December 1 that will require cities like McKinney to get landowners’ approval before annexing them. In a split 4-3 vote, with Mayor George Fuller joining the majority, city council moved forward with their plans.
City council was set to vote on the final forced annexation plan on November 15, but that proposal is now officially off the table.
Tuesday’s 7-0 vote to drop the land grab followed Fuller’s announcement last Friday that he would no longer support the plan.
Council members who originally backed the mayor’s forced annexation plan – Rainey Rogers, Tracy Rath, and La’Shadion Shemwell – again followed Fuller’s lead Tuesday and dropped their support. Council members Chuck Branch, Scott Elliott, and Charlie Phillips opposed the plan from the outset.
As one McKinney resident commented on Facebook, the vote was about more than annexation. “It was a referendum on transparency. This time transparency won out, due to the participation and voices of concerned citizens.”
The day before Fuller’s announcement, the mayor and city council members received copies of an independent legal opinion, from an attorney retained by a group of targeted landowners, alleging that they violated the state’s Open Meetings Act when they voted on August 28 to initiate the land grab.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office weighed in on Monday with a letter concurring that, in its rush to beat the December 1 deadline, the city may have violated state law. The city attorney disagreed with those opinions.
Fuller denies that the allegations had any impact on his decision to change his vote on forced annexation. He points instead to the city’s inability to negotiate mutually acceptable development agreements with landowners under the forced conditions.
Fuller now says he will seek voluntary annexation agreements with ETJ landowners – no rushed deadlines or threats of force – and hold town hall meetings that allow for open discussion among all parties, rather than the one-way format the city followed in its formal public hearings.
And that’s what this fight has been about: people having a voice in the process and a choice in whether or not they’re annexed into the city. Because they fought back, now they will.
Residents stood up for themselves, and for private property rights, against the city of McKinney – and they won.