2013 - Arkansas Annexation Law - The Issue

Some people enjoy the benefits of living in rural areas outside the city limits. What if a city decides to double its size and annex your property? Should you and your neighbors have a say about that? Cities across the nation have been expanding their boundaries without regard to the wishes of the people who live in the annexed areas. The result is increased taxes, costs, and restrictions. Like many other states, Arkansas law allows a majority to decide to annex an area into the city. The problem with that is, everyone gets an equal vote, and the city dwellers always far outnumber the people who are about to be annexed. Unless they have the ability to convice the city residents to vote against annexation, the people to be annexed have no chance of stopping the annexation of their property. Is this fair?

In addition, Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (EJT) gives cities the right to regulate and zone land use, and require building permits in areas surrounding the city -- outside the city limits. Fort Smith is an example.

Property owners should make the final decision on whether the benefits of annexation outweight the costs and increased rules and regulations. A few states have enacted legislation that fixes the old unfair way of annexing property. During the 2013 legislative session a group of people in Arkansas worked to revise Arkansas law using North Carolina's example.

History and Status

In spite of national groups spending money and lobbying to maintain unfair annexation laws in Arkansas, in 2013 the Arkansas legislature took some steps to make state law more fair, and limit the power of cities to expand in spite of opposition by those who would be affected. Here are the final results:

In 2008 the Salem Community defeated annexation attempts by Benton and Bryant. Will we prevail next time against the power and money of the city? How often will we, our children, or our grandchildren have to fight this battle? Why not change state law to let the people that are to be annexed make the decision?
In 2012 a grass roots movement was able to defeat the Cherokee Village, Arkansas annexation attempt before it got off the ground

SB1018 in a couple of years (with interim study) or at least having many of its revisions in existing law through this session should create opportunities for more fairness than we have seen in the past. We are pleased and thankful that the Arkansas legislature has taken some action to:

  1. Substantially strengthen the rights and freedoms of rural Arkansans, and
  2. Protect city dwellers from local politicians and outside interests who desire to raise the cost of providing city services while diluting those services.

To those who contacted your Representative and Senator in the Arkansas legislature regarding regarding annexations and territorial jurisdiction, thank you.

Why I support Arkansas Senate Bill 1018 (2013)
by: Phillip Orr
  1.  I support SB1018 because it insures that owners will be notified in writing, before any annexation steps are taken.—Existing Notification is Almost Non-existent and less than that of a quiet title suit where those with a potential interests are notified in writing.  There is no excuse for failing to notify owners in writing of potential changes affecting ownership through annexation or possible changes in territorial jurisdiction.

  2. I support SB1018 because it gives an owner, potentially affected by annexation, the right to vote, before any steps toward annexation are made.---Existing right to vote does not exist in a format that is fair to those within areas potentially affected. If a city cannot prove its value to the majority within the path of annexation, forced annexations should seldom be a consideration.

  3. I support SB1018 because it gives those, as residents of a city, the right to vote approval or disapproval of the annexation that will often included additional expenses to the city.---Existing methods of annexation do not always provide the existing residents the option of saying, we do or do not agree with the annexation.

  4. I support SB1018 because it insures that, if annexed, I am almost guaranteed that certain services will be provided.---Existing laws allow cities to often annex areas where they do not have the intention of providing services typical of a city, because it can often be proven that they did not have the financial ability to provide the services from the beginning. 

  5. I support SB1018, because cities of true growth will be more inclined to use annexation as it was intended and not abuse the property rights of others, by allowing political planners to make political decisions concerning highest and best use.---We are told the majority of annexations are voluntary; but, the forced annexations lend one to believe that annexation is a guise for avoidance of eminent domain laws.  If a city wants to control my property for the benefit of others, they need to buy it if they cannot prove that annexation brings more value to the property, unless an unusual circumstance like health related issues are present.   

  6. I support SB1018 because it clarifies the financial implications of annexing properties within districts where federal, state and local funding for things like rural water or fire districts exists.---Existing annexation laws of Arkansas do little to outline a clear process of annexation in areas within these districts. 

  7. I support SB1018 because I feel that it further protects the natural state of our environment for farming, ranching and wildlife habitat, especially through the existing right to farm statutes.---It is easily proven that existing Arkansas annexation and right to farm statutes are not standing the test of their intended protections from annexations. 

  8. I support SB1018 because it eliminates some of the loopholes of abuse that are presently open for any planning and zoning commission that is out of control with a city council.---Existing Arkansas law allows cities to sneak annexation/territorial jurisdiction changes past owners; therefore, some changes are made without a vote, with 100% opposition by those affected, without regard for the reduction of services by counties, with land grabs strictly for financial gain by a city. 

  9. I support SB1018 because it clarifies the entire process.---Existing Arkansas annexation laws leave too many things open for interpretation and do not provide a clear process of making annexations fair to all.  The burden of proof needs to fall on the city (especially in regard to services), not on owners forced into detachment litigation against a city.

  10. I support SB1018 because it makes petitioning for voluntary annexation equally fair for the less affluent side of town that truly needs to be annexed into the city.---It's one thing to say the existing law is fair to all; but, see how you get along trying to make the so called wrong side of town a better place to be.  At least SB1018 outlines a method of fairness.

  11. I support SB1018 because failure to support the bill is an obvious failure to recognize the significance of the basic right to own and control property that is being abused in Arkansas as it was in many other states, before their laws (very similar to ours) were changed.---IN lost 100,000 acres of prime productive land to cities, OH created agriculture districts, NC had 40 pieces of annexation legislation in one year before changing their law, MO changed their law, TN faced major turmoil in Memphis and has bills being presented at this time. Many other states like ID have major activities centered on eliminating forced annexations.

  12. I support SB1018 because with so many requests for changes to Arkansas annexation laws, it is obvious that people across the state have seen their property rights abused through existing laws.

In conclusion: "In every civilized society property rights must be carefully safeguarded; ordinarily and in the great majority of cases, human rights and property rights are fundamentally and in the long run, identical." Theodore Roosevelt

Why Revise the Annexation Laws of Arkansas? Because they were written for a different era.
by: Phillip Orr
  1. Arkansas should face their annexation issues legislatively, before they meet the raft of challenges as experienced in NC and many other states. With laws similar to AR, NC was forced to legislation, when approximately 40 annexation-related bills hit the capital at one time. OH created agriculture districts to protect their land. IN lost more than 100,000 acres of prime agriculture land to annexation, before they could do anything about it. MO corrected their annexation laws in a manner similar to NC while IA and other states have faced the issues.

  2. Annexation by some cities (without the resources to provide additional services) is clearly a violation of intent to provide additional services because it was never possible. Proof of the city's ability to provide all of their services to an annexed area must become a preliminary process.

  3. Current law makes it near impossible for the Supreme Court to defend owners from land grabs, primarily for increasing a tax base for a city, at the expense of a county. To insure that services typically provided within cities are consistently provided within annexed areas, within a specified date from annexation, avenues for recourse must be specific and without undue burden on the affected property owner.

  4. The unfairness of present annexation law is recognized by many. You cannot visit many areas within the state where issues are not escalating. We can close our eyes and ears or do something that is just to all.

  5. Today's vote concerning annexation (under present law) is typically meaningless by an affected land or home owner, in relation to the almost certain vote of annexation approval from within a city. If you doubt this, all you need to do is ask your supporters, regardless of your political platform.

  6. Many cities of true growth need a process that does not impede progress, while providing an avenue of annexation that eliminates the element of unfairness, leading to legal or heated challenges they are currently facing.

  7. Procedures for annexation have not been amended to adequately permit or address the issues of areas within rural water districts, waste water providers, fire districts, and other services having federal, state, or county funding.

  8. Avenues of annexation by petition should make all areas equal, instead of simply allowing cities to follow the path of more revenue.

  9. Cities are often using annexation as a means of avoiding the laws of eminent domain. If the annexation is for the good of the majority and the future use is to be dictated by a city, let the city pay a fair price of just compensation for the property for the use they have determined as highest and best.

  10. The prohibitions against annexing lands have been violated toward agricultural or horticultural uses in many instances. Even the Arkansas Municipal League acknowledges this as not being an absolute as case studies are documented, while “The Right to Farm Statues of Arkansas” are obviously not enough protection in many instances.

  11. Notifications to property owners within annexation areas must not be avoidable by municipalities. The law must insure that notifications follow a path that cannot be disputed, nor allow a taking where the land was not identified in a way that an owner would know his right to own and control a specified parcel was being affected in any way, including territorial jurisdiction or annexation.

  12. The burden of proof that the process of annexation has been adhered to must be clearly documented. Existing law creates too many avenues for cities with planning and zoning commissions (out of control) to work with city councils in manners that are not fair to the human rights or property rights of those within Arkansas.

In conclusion: "In every civilized society property rights must be carefully safeguarded; ordinarily and in the great majority of cases, human rights and property rights are fundamentally and in the long run, identical."
Theodore Roosevelt

Please direct questions or comments to Phillip Orr PORR@coldwellbanker.com

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