Corridor Annexation: Managing Conflict and Avoiding Confusion

The pattern of annexation in some parts of the state has created conflict between cities and counties over responsibility for maintaining infrastructure and providing services.  Where annexations to reach non-contiguous property proposed for development do not include roads and other public infrastructure adjacent to the annexed land, counties remain responsible for that infrastructure, which may become subject to additional wear and tear because of the development.  Counties may not have sufficient revenue to support those increased infrastructure needs, particularly where development is primarily retail and the associated sales tax revenue goes mainly to the city.  In the worst cases, cities structure their annexations to avoid the infrastructure that is most expensive to maintain, such as bridges.  As noted in testimony on this issue before the Commission in August 2013, this occurred in Hawkins County where a municipality annexed up to a bridge, skipped over it, and continued annexing on the other side.  The bridge was condemned, and the county spent $28,600 on temporary repairs to keep it open.  The cost to replace it was estimated at $7.2 million.  Kansas deals with the problem of annexing property without taking roads by allowing counties to force cities to annex roads that are adjacent to annexed property by notifying the city that such a road exists.  The city then must declare it annexed unless another city also abuts the road, in which case the city must annex to the centerline.

Annexations drawn with irregular boundaries to include certain properties or infrastructure and exclude others have created confusion for residents and landowners about whether the city or the county is responsible for road maintenance and emergency services.  In some cases, adjacent properties may be served by different providers, and even emergency service agencies may be confused about who is responsible for each property, creating a risk that either multiple agencies will respond or that none will.  Resolving these problems requires considerable coordination among local governments.

Florida addresses the confusion created by certain types of annexation by including the county in the decision.  Cities in Florida can annex unincorporated donut holes smaller than 10 acres by agreement with the county.  They can do this without a referendum or petition but cannot do so to annex undeveloped or unimproved real property.28

Ohio and Georgia also include counties in annexation decisions but do not limit their involvement to those involving donut holes.  Ohio involves counties at the start of the process, with cities seeking to annex needing to first get county commission approval.29  Georgia doesn’t require county approval but does allow counties to object to annexations when they believe the change in use or density will substantially burden the county.  If no agreement can be reached to resolve the objection, it goes before a panel for binding arbitration.30

28 Florida Annotated Statutes, Section 171.046.
29 Page’s Ohio Revised Code Annotated, Sections 709.03 and 709.15.
30 Official Code of Georgia Annotated, Title 36, Chapter 36, Article 7.