SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - A proposed Tennessee bill could change the way cities expand their limits.
The legislation calls for a local referendum for property owners and a majority vote before local governments can annex.
For years, Kingsport annexation has been a hot topic in Randell Gortney's Colonial Heights neighborhood, but it's something he doesn't want to see. "Our taxes go up, and I don't feel like we [would] get that [many] services out of it," said Gortney.
But right now, Tennessee state law doesn't require him to have a vote on that decision. His neighborhood lies in a 100-square-mile boundary that's up for grabs for the city of Kingsport. "In 2000, we adopted an urban growth policy, and the urban growth plan outlines exactly where we can annex," said Lynn Tully, Kingsport's planning and community development director.
Under proposed House Bill 0590, filed by Micah Van Huss (R- Johnson City), it's the property owners who would get a final 'say-so' on annexation. City planners told us that could make expansion more difficult. "I don't know that it would change our annexation strategy a huge amount, but it would take a little longer I think," said Tully.
Homeowners on the brink of becoming city citizens said that's something they don't mind.
From weighing in on services that impact daily life -- "It'd be nice to not have to deal with like the waste management aspect of it, and maybe the water and stuff like that," said Terence Webb, a Sullivan County resident.
To fees and taxes--- "Doubling your taxes is something I'm sure most property owners would like to have a say in," said Karyn Cross, another Sullivan County resident.
Some feel putting their voice in a ballot box puts their property in the hands of a democracy. "This country is built on that. It should be what, like I said, the majority wants and give us a decision it anyway," said Gortney.
This proposed legislation would also require municipalities to give notice to all property owners with a 90-day notice and three informational meetings.
It would also not allow farmland to be annexed unless it is zoned by the property owner for used other than agriculture.
The bill is scheduled to go to a subcommittee next week.