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Lawyers: City has good annexation case

Brookhaven can make a strong case in several areas that areconsidered when a judge decides whether to grant an annexationpetition and can do so without a tax increase, attorneys said.

Annexation attorney Jerry Mills said there are 12 indicia ofreasonableness that cities must prove when requesting an annexationthrough chancery court. Mills said the “totality of circumstances”must be taken into consideration during the process.

The first criteria is the city must show a need forannexation.

“That’s one area where Brookhaven is especially strong becauseof its small geographic borders,” Mills said Tuesday during ameeting with the DAILY LEADER editorial board.

Other factors include:

* Showing a need for city services in the proposed annexationarea

* The city’s ability to provide those services where “necessaryand economically feasible” within an acceptable timeframe, usuallyfive years.

* City path of growth considerations.

* Need for planning and zoning in the proposed annexationarea.

* Natural barriers that may exist between the existing city andannexation area.

* No adverse impact on protected minority voting strength.

* Impact on residents in the annexation area.

* Past city performance with annexations.

* Need for protection from health hazards.

* “Fair share” issues related to citizens benefiting from cityservices while living outside the city limits.

* Any other factors impacting the reasonableness of anannexation request.

Mills said the city has been responsive in granting cityservices to non-city residents.

“If this situation, there has been a long history of providingservices to those outside the city,” Mills said.

Mills also mentioned “spill over growth” with people locatingjust outside the city limits.

“Brookhaven probably has the most classic example of spill overgrowth I’ve ever seen,” Mills said.

“In all directions,” added Mike Slaughter, the city’s annexationconsultant.

While residents on the city’s periphery are benefiting from cityservices in many cases, Mills said the situation is not a “one-waystreet.” Those residents come into the city and pay their “fairshare” as determined though sales tax, and the city gets thebenefit of that money.

“What they’re not doing is paying a full share,” Mills said,referring to the payment of other tax revenue the city shouldreceive to support services that periphery residents also benefitfrom.

Preliminary annexation data suggests the city would receive anadditional $245,000 a year from its share of sales tax collected atbusinesses in the proposed annexation area. This would not meanmore taxes, but rather sales tax money diverted to the city insteadof going to the state as it does now.

Mills and Slaughter said the annexation anticipates no taxincrease.

“It anticipates the proposed annexation paying its own way,”Mills said.

Speaking about population, Mills said Brookhaven’s populationdropped to under 10,000 according to the latest census. However,the number of housing units was up as there were more, but smaller,families in the city.

The city annexation, if fully granted, would raise the citypopulation to over 13,000.

The proposed annexation area includes the Brignall community andthe Wal-Mart Distribution Center and McLane Southern. Both areashave got officials’ attention as the annexation is pursued.

City Attorney Joe Fernald did not elaborate on sewer problemsthat have plagued the Brignall community for years. He said thatwas a “sensitive issue” but the city, through a “convolutedsystem,” already treats sewer from the community.

“We’re going to deal with it,” Fernald said.

Mills, Slaughter, Fernald and Mayor Bill Godbold met earlierTuesday with representatives of Wal-Mart and McLane to addresstheir concerns about annexation.

“We had some very constructive talks,” Mills said.

City officials did not identify specific concerns mentioned, butMills said Wal-Mart has a history of being a good corporatecitizen. They indicated the meetings and their tone werepositive.

“I’m very optimistic about the future,” Slaughter said.

Officials also mentioned garbage concerns. The city’s solidwaste operation is running in a deficit and that situation must beaddressed in light of annexation issues.

“It’s going to be a major consideration whether we annex ornot,” Fernald said. “It’s a problem.”

Mills said school district lines would not be affected by amunicipal annexation.

As the city moves forward with annexation plans, Mills discussedthe need for a detailed plan of what services would be provided toannexed areas and when. He said the idea was to have a plan andmove forward with it as development of an area warrants newservices.

In pursuing annexation, Mills said citizens opposed to theannexation will have an opportunity to be heard in court. Millssaid the court proceedings are not a “rubber stamp” approval ofannexation and the city must prove the 12 indicia of reasonablenessfor the expansion to go forward.

“If we’re unable to do it, there will be no annexation,” Millssaid.