Possible changes to annexation and vesting policies for developments were main topics of the Tennessee Municipal League’s District 3 meeting held at the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce Thursday.
The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations is set to have a meeting Dec. 11 to decide whether to recommend required referendums before municipal governments can annex land.
TML’s Chad Jenkins said TACIR had heard many opinions on the issue during hearings.
Jenkins said a recommendation from TACIR would then go to the Tennessee General Assembly for consideration and there is no guarantee the recommendation would pass.
“It is possible that they decide they don’t have a consensus and they extend the moratorium,” Jenkins said.
A temporary hold has been put on annexation in Tennessee, except at a homeowner’s request, until May 15, 2014.
TACIR heard testimony from local leaders and government workers from across the state at meetings this year.
Jenkins said there are a number of questions and elements of annexation that need to be addressed if anything is going to be changed from the current law.
These issues included:
- Is a referendum the best way for residents’ voices to be heard on annexation?
- Would voters be able to hold a referendum to de-annex from a municipality?
- How will changes to the law affect local governing bodies’ ability to change their Urban Growth Boundary (the area of land outside a city limit available for annexation)?
- How will plans of service timelines for annexed areas be determined or affected?
- Will changes to the law affect residential construction projects in progress in annexed areas?
- Should current restrictions on annexation be reconsidered if annexation is by referendum?
Current law limits a city’s annexation power to the Urban Growth Boundary. The local city and county governments set this boundary. Individual residents do not have input on whether they are annexed. Legislation being considered would require all annexation plans to go to referendum to be decided by the voters.
Jenkins said many municipalities do not update the Urban Growth Plan very often because it is a very detailed process.
Jenkins said changes to annexation or the Urban Growth Boundary regulations might create issues for getting city infrastructure to potential industrial sites outside the city limits.
Legislation is also being considered to change the point in the construction process where a builder is protected from complying with new city ordinances requirements. This protection is called vesting.
The legislation would provide the protection at the approval of the project plan by the city as long as project benchmarks are met. Builders will have one year from the approval of a preliminary project plan to submit the final plan or they will be required to update the plan to comply with any new ordinances or requirements which have been approved.
“The biggest challenge … is trying to get something uniform across the state,” Jenkins said. “Each of you does things a little differently.”
Protections would be limited to 10 years, meaning if the project is not complete, current requirements would apply.
“Vesting is permanent unless the applicant does something to mess it up. Then it will be lost,” Jenkins said.
This can happen when a project does not meet the ordinances and requirements that it needs to meet at the time it is vested.
“If there is an amendment that is filed that is inconsistent with the plan” it would also void the vesting of the project, Jenkins said of the changes being considered.
The TML is working to have legislation considered to address the distribution of taxes collected from mixed drink ordinances in some cities. A list, provided by TML, of cities that still need to work through this issue revealed Cleveland is not on of them. In many cities the local portion has not been distributed correctly for as many as 30 years. Jenkins said the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury was in favor of having the local governments work it out among themselves.
Deadlines for when businesses are required to file taxes are also being reconsidered at the state level, to come in line with federal deadlines.
Other state bills affecting municipalities include requirements to contact the 811 one-call centers before digging and limiting the rate a municipality’s utility company can charge those outside the city limits to 50 percent.