Corridor and Non-Contiguous Annexation: Supporting Economic Development

Accommodating willing landowners’ requests for annexation of areas not adjacent to the city limits will be more difficult under the new law because landowners and residents in between can stop them.  But these areas may be well suited for commercial or industrial development.  In the past, cities could easily annex corridors to reach these non-contiguous properties, taking in roads and other rights-of-way, which in many cases created conflict between cities and counties over responsibility for maintaining infrastructure and providing services and confusion for residents and landowners about whether the city or the county is responsible for road maintenance and emergency services.  With the passage of Public Chapter 707, cities can no longer do this without the consent of voters by referendum or all owners in writing who live along those roads and rights-of-way and own the land under them.  This should not, however, inhibit their ability to annex corridors that are not privately owned, but they will need permission from the government that owns them.

Where cities continue to use corridor annexation to support economic development, cities and counties need to work together to agree on the most effective way to serve developments in outlying areas.  Cities should not be permitted to annex a substantial majority of properties on both sides of a county road or bridge without either accepting responsibility for that infrastructure or negotiating a service agreement with the county.  Counties would be able to petition a chancery court to direct cities to either accept responsibility for the road or deannex the property along it.

Seven states allow cities to annex non-contiguous territory in order to avoid the conflict and confusion created by corridor annexation.  Three of them allow non-contiguous annexation only of government-owned property and three permit cities to annex privately held non-contiguous property within a certain distance of the city limits but only with the owners’ consent.  None of these states allow the non-contiguous territory to be used to establish contiguity for further annexations.  Indiana limits non-contiguous annexation to commercial or industrial development, which avoids problems associated with providing public services to patchwork residential development.  Indiana also requires the city to get county approval for the annexation.  So does Kansas, which does not limit non-contiguous annexation to certain types of property.  Georgia also does not limit non-contiguous annexation to certain types of property, but only allows it when effected either by the state legislature or by agreement between the city and county.

Allowing non-contiguous annexation in Tennessee would help cities and counties alleviate the problems created by corridor annexation when the most appropriate area for development has a landowner willing to be annexed but is not adjacent to the city without affecting residents or landowners who don’t want to be annexed.  Tennessee could follow the model of Kansas and Indiana and require county approval for non-contiguous annexation or use its urban growth boundaries to establish county consent for non-contiguous annexations.  Whether county approval is required or not, non-contiguous annexation should be limited to commercial or industrial development and government-owned property to avoid the problems created by patchwork residential development.  Because counties would remain responsible for infrastructure such as roads and for emergency or other services between the city and the unincorporated island created by non-contiguous annexation, cities and counties should be required to agree on a coordinated plan of services and infrastructure maintenance for both the non-contiguous property and the route connecting it to the city.