GRAY, Tn. - Fifteen years ago, the Tennessee State Legislature set out guidelines to govern the growth of the Volunteer state's cities.
But now the time has come to re-evaluate those plans. There are several proposals on Capitol Hill in Nashville, among them one that would give homeowners rights to say no, and even halting annexation for a time.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey say he thinks lawmakers are on the right track. "It's come to a head this year, not only in Memphis and Chattanooga, but other areas. So i think what we may look at is a moratorium. Probably won't be two years. that's how it was written up. probably one year. gives us time to pull all these bills together and see where we end up."
Senate Bill 279 would halt city-initiated annexations for the next two years, and TACIR, the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, would take a look current state annexation laws, then make a recommendation to the legislature.
The two year break would be welcome to people like Roger Hale of Gray, Tn. Hale owns a farm that has been in his family for 200 years. He's been fighting to keep Johnson City from expanding into his front yard. "l don't understand why they want this place,"says Hale. It has to be for me giving them money, because I won't get a thing out of it. [Johnson City] says I will, but I've got everything they've offered. I don't need anything they've got."
A halt on expansion could be trouble for places like Johnson City and Kingsport. "It could have some economic development implications, if it does pass," says Angie Carrier, the Development Services Director for Johnson City. "There are some properties on the cusp of the city that could want to be developed, but would not be able to."
Carrier says Johnson City doesn't have any plans for annexation right now, but Kingsport was looking to make some changes this summer and SB 279 is causing some worry.
"It's a real concern in terms of what it does in terms of expanding housing opportunities for people, some commercial opportunities," says city manager John Campbell.
Campbell says it could stall growth and the area's recovery from the recession.
Lt. Governor Ramsey says he doesn't expect a bill to make it to Governor Haslam's desk this year, but the legislature should be able to combine bills and possibly pass something in 2014.