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Citizens for Home Rule, Inc.

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CHR Urges Support of Senate Bill 25 and House Bill 0804, Restoring Right to Jury Trial in Annexation Lawsuits

Restoration of Tennesseans' right to jury trial is gaining momentum as support grows for SB25/HB804.

Co-sponsored in the Senate by Senators Ketron, Burchett, and Hagood. Co-sponsored in the House by Representatives Niceley, Campfield, Dunn, Brooks and Strader.

SB25/HB804 - Restores the right to trial by jury in quo warranto actions contesting the validity of municipal annexation. - Amends TCA Section 6-58-111.

Halls Business and Professional Association Endorses SB25/HB0804

The Halls Business and Professional Association board of directors has endorsed State Senate Bill 25/HB 0804. Upon a motion by Fred Parker, seconded by Donnie Ellis, the vote came March 1.

"This bill would make it more difficult for municipalities to annex an unwilling property owner," said B&P president Scott Frith.

"The Halls B&P continues to monitor legislation in Nashville to protect the interests of Halls businesses."

Knox County Commission Passes Resolution Supporting SB25/HB0804 on February 28, 2005 - Click here to read it.

Click Here to Read Scott Frith's Remarks to Knox County Delegation on February 26, 2005 on behalf of Citizens for Home Rule

From the Halls Shopper - February 24, 2005

CHR Looks at Annexation Bills

Annexation will be a hot topic in the Tennessee General Assembly with at least 10 bills pending to make it easier or harder for cities to annex property against the owner's will.

Citizens for Home Rule (CHR) is strongly advocating passage of Senate Bill 25 to restore the property owner's right to trial by jury in annexation lawsuits. S.B. 25 is sponsored by Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro). Its House companion is H.B. 804, sponsored by five Knox County Republicans: Frank Niceley, Stacey Campfield, Bill Dunn, Harry Brooks and Parkey Strader.

CHR is opposed to five bills, all introduced by Sen. Tim Burchett at the behest of the city of Knoxville:

SB 764 (HB 2042 by Joe Armstrong) sets conditions under which a city may annex land outside its urban growth boundary.

SB 765 (HB 1913 by Harry Tindell) doubles the burden of proof on property owners trying to defeat annexation.

SB 1236 (HB 1236 by Tindell) identical to SB 765. CHR attorney David Buuck said one bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee while the other was referred to the State and Local Government Committee. The double introduction gives sponsors two chances to move the bills onto the floor.

SB 1323 (HB 1912 by Tindell) toughens the burden of proof for property owners fighting annexation (owner must prove the annexation is "unreasonable.") SB 1558 (HB 1914 by Tindell) makes it easier to annex "bound parcels," property bordered on all sides by the corporate limits of the city. Buuck called this the "Disc Exchange" bill, seeking to overturn a ruling against the city by Chancellor Daryl Fansler - the only annexation case that has gone to trial in several years.

Citizens for Home Rule board members were briefed Feb. 22 by Buuck, who had just returned from Nashville. The deadline to introduce bills has passed.

CHR identified four bills which they support, although did not originate:

SB 288 by Raymond Finney (HB 237 by Campfield) requires notification to property owners before their land can be annexed.

SB 1587 by Mark Norris (HB 408 by Charles Sargent) prevents one city from annexing into another city's urban growth area.

SB 1583 by Norris (HB 403 by Sargent) requires mayor to mayor notification before annexation; the bill also requires the city to provide a real schedule for implementation of a plan of services to annexed areas.

SB 1968 by Norris (HB 2058 by U. Jones) requires notification to all emergency service providers prior to annexation.

CHR is a citizens group which advocates for property rights and against unwanted annexation.

Copyright 2005 Shopper Publications Inc.

CHR Press Release - Position on Annexation Bills - February 17, 2005

Citizens for Home Rule, Inc. (CHR), the Knox County-based anti-annexation group, announced today that it has received assurances from the sponsor of 5 annexation bills that it opposes that the bills are "going nowhere" in the current Legislature. John A. Emison, the organization’s President, said he has received assurances from Sen. Tim Burchett, the bills' sponsor that they will not be considered by the state Senate.

"Sen. Tim Burchett called me to pledge that the 5 bills CHR opposes are dead on arrival. As the sponsor of the bills Sen. Burchett explained that he is in a unique position to bottle them up in the Senate. He gave me his word," Emison said. "And believe me, we appreciate that effort. It’s good news for every homeowner, every business, every property owner in the state."

Background: the 5 bills include SB764, SB765, SB1236, SB1323, and SB1558. Among other things, the bills would double the burden of proof that a homeowner or property owner would have to prove in suits blocking forced annexation, and would allow cities to annex outside their Urban Grown Boundary.

Media Contact: John A. Emison
805-0858

From the Metropulse, Ear to the Ground - February 10, 2005

Annexation Rears Ugly Head

Citizens for Home Rule leaders are incensed about four bills sponsored by state Sen. Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville, that make it easier for the city of Knoxville to do annexations. They fear that one of them would allow the city to annex property beyond the urban growth boundary. In correspondence to county Mayor Mike Ragsdale, John Emison, the head of the group, asked Ragsdale to join "county residents, property owners, utility districts, Rural Metro and Citizens for Home Rule in opposing these bills."

SB0765 has a caption that says the bill "increases the burden of proof that must be met by any party challenging the validity of an annexation ordinance." The law now states that in challenging an annexation a property owner must prove that the ordinance is unreasonable "or" that there is no health and safety effect of not annexing the property in question. Burchett's bill changes the "or" to an "and," requiring both proofs. CHR attorneys say it is "a killer" change that undercuts the ability to oppose an annexation.

SB764 seems to allow cities to annex by ordinance beyond the Urban Growth Plan boundary, established in an agreement between the city and county in recent years that has dampened down some of the friction between the two governments.

Emison says he suspects, if the laws pass, the city will de-annex the hundreds of people now suing to stop annexation and then the city will annex them again under the new language. As of this writing, Burchett has not found a House sponsor for the legislation. He told CHR this week he would not be pursuing the burden of proof bill, and Emison said the group is hopeful he will drop all of them.

Copyright 2005 Metropulse

Click Here to Read the Tipton Opinion

Click Here to Read the Tax Opinion

CHR 2004 Legislative Candidate Survey

Citizens for Home Rule, Inc., the Knox County citizen advocacy organization that opposes forced annexation of its members and works to protect the right of trial by jury on behalf of all Tennesseans, announces results of its 2004 Legislative Candidate Survey. The survey assessed legislative candidates statewide on the basis their position on forced annexation, the right of property owners to receive notice prior to an annexation, and the right of trial by jury. The results of the survey are indicated in the table below. For comment or additional information call John A. Emison, President of CHR, 805-0858 (no voice mail).

Name

Office

Party

CHR Rating

Jamie Hagood

State Senate 6th Dist.

Republican

Very Favorable

Cindy McGill

State Senate 6th Dist.

Democratic

Very Favorable

Linda Jo Dees

State Senate 8th Dist.

Democrat

Favorable

Raymond Finney

State Senate 8th Dist.

Republican

Very Favorable

Jim Melton

State Senate 8th Dist.

Independent

Favorable

Dennis Doster

State Senate 24th Dist.

Republican

Very Favorable

Roy Herron

State Senate 24th Dist.

Democrat

Unfavorable – refused

Ron Stallings

State Senate 26th Dist.

Republican

Very Favorable

John S. Wilder

State Senate 26th Dist.

Democrat

Unfavorable – no response

Linda King Brittenham

State House 1st Dist.

Democrat

Unfavorable – refused

Jerry G. Dykes

State House 1st Dist.

Independent

Very Favorable

Steve Godsey

State House 1st Dist.

Republican

Very Favorable

Joe Mike Akard

State House 3rd Dist.

Democrat

Very Favorable

Richard Montgomery

State House 12th Dist.

Republican

Very Favorable

Randall Parker

State House 13th Dist.

Republican

Very Favorable

Harry Tindell

State House 13th Dist.

Democrat

Unfavorable – no response

Park M. (Parkey) Strader

State House 14th Dist.

Republican

Very Favorable

Chris Oldham

State House 14th Dist.

Democratic

Very Favorable

Umoja O.N. Abdul-Ahad

State House 15th Dist.

Independent

Very Favorable

Joe Armstrong

State House 15th Dist.

Democratic

Unfavorable – no response

Bill Dunn

State House 16th Dist.

Republican

Favorable

Frank S. Niceley

State House 17th Dist.

Republican

Very Favorable

Hank Barnett

State House 17th Dist.

Democratic

Unfavorable – no response

Stacey Campfield

State House 18th Dist.

Republican

Very Favorable

Michael S. Carroll

State House 18th Dist.

Democratic

Unfavorable

Harry Brooks

State House 19th Dist.

Republican

Very Favorable

Doug Overby

State House 20th Dist.

Republican

Unfavorable – refused

Stewart Paul Rogers

State House 21st Dist.

Independent

Favorable

J. Chris Newton

State House 22nd Dist.

Republican

Very Favorable

Eric H. Swafford

State House 25th Dist.

Republican

Very Favorable

Daniel T. Lewis

State House 26th Dist.

Independent

Very Favorable

Debbie Colburn

State House 30th Dist.

Democrat

Favorable

June Griffin

State House 31st Dist.

Independent

Very Favorable

Raymond C. Dyer

State House 42nd Dist.

Republican

Very Favorable

Ricky D. Goats

State House 44th Dist.

Republican

Very Favorable

Ken Berryhill

State House 50th Dist.

Republican

Acceptable

Beth Harwell

State House 56th Dist.

Republican

Very Favorable

Charles Sargent

State House 61st Dist.

Republican

Very Favorable

Tom DuBois

State House 64th Dist.

Republican

Very Favorable

Tharon Chandler

State House 70th Dist.

Independent

Very Favorable

Dr. Joey Hensley

State House 70th Dist.

Republican

Very Favorable

Stephen R. Blackburn, Sr.

State House 75th Dist.

Republican

Very Favorable

Dr. Jesse Cannon

State House 81st Dist.

Republican

Very Favorable

Jimmy Naifeh

State House 81st Dist.

Democrat

Unfavorable – no response

Brian Kesley

State House 83rd Dist.

Republican

Very Favorable

Julian J. Prewitt

State House 83rd Dist.

Democrat

Very Favorable

Barbara Cooper

State House 86th Dist.

Democrat

Very Favorable

Paul Stanley

State House 96th Dist.

Republican

Very Favorable

From the News Sentinel - July 17, 2004

Home rule group polls candidates

By GEORGIANA VINES, vines@knews.com

Six legislative candidates seeking the Republican nomination in the Aug. 5 primary have received a "very favorable" rating from the Citizens for Home Rule based on answers to their questions on annexation.

A seventh candidate received a "favorable" rating while three received "unfavorable" ratings, said John A. Emison, president of the 400-member organization.

CHR's survey was sent to all candidates who have filed for the 6th District Senate and all House seats in Knox County. Democrats without opposition in August and Independents on the ballot in November were among those answering the questions.

CHR surveyed the candidates for their position on forced annexation, right of property owners to receive notice prior to an annexation and the right of trial by jury.

Those with the "very favorable" rating mean the candidates would be 100 percent in alignment with the CHR position on all issues they were questioned about, Emison said.

" 'Favorable' is someone we would consider as being clearly friendly to our agenda and issues but perhaps not in 100 percent agreement in every single issue," he said.

Those deemed "unfavorable" didn't answer the survey, he said.

Here's how the candidates with opponents in August stacked up by district:

# 6th District Senate - Jamie Hagood, "very favorable"; Billy Stokes, "favorable."

# 14th District House - Diane Jablonski and Parkey Strader, both "very favorable."

# 17th District House - James Bletner, Ed Shouse and Larry Elkins, all "unfavorable;" Frank Niceley, "very favorable."

# 18th District House - Stacey Campfield and David Wright, both "very favorable." Mike Brown, whose name is on the ballot although he's not campaigning, received an "unfavorable."

Associate Editor Georgiana Vines' column appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. She may be reached at 865-342-6343 or vines@knews.com.

Copyright 2004, Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.

From the News Sentinel - April 14, 2004

Mayor reveals new annexation guidelines

By HAYES HICKMAN, hickman@knews.com

Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam unveiled his administration's new annexation policy Tuesday, which dictates an "aggressive" approach to informing property owners of any impending action.

Any future efforts to expand the city limits will be "consistent and predictable," the mayor explained.

The new guidelines, which did not require a vote for approval by City Council members after they were announced at the board's meeting, are based primarily on volunteerism and "indicators of urbanization."

Council members offered no comment after the mayor's brief discussion.

The city will pursue voluntary annexations at the request of residents or businesses, the policy states, and likewise, the city will "seek to convince others in areas where it is appropriate that it is in their interest to join the city."

The city will still annex parcels within its urban growth boundary if the land is developed or is likely to develop in the "near future," the policy states.

Additionally, it specifies that the city will annex property that is "at least 50 percent surrounded by existing parcels presently in the city" if the surrounding land is developed or likely to be developed.

The policy, however, offers property owners the chance to appeal annexations to the mayor before the administration submits its plans for a City Council vote.

Critics often described annexations under Haslam's predecessor, Victor Ashe, as aggressive. Ashe enraged many county residents and business owners who complained of after-the-fact notifications welcoming them to Knoxville and a perception that the city was only interested in increasing its property tax base.

Haslam shelved several inherited annexation proposals in January, shortly after he took office, and promised to re-examine the practice in order to draft a more coherent and defensible policy.

The mayor, however, said he did not expect his new approach to necessarily resolve any of the nearly 200 annexation lawsuits still pending against the city.

"We'll look at them on a case-by-case basis," Haslam said.

Haslam added that he has no plans to immediately resume the practice. But his administration, which has advocated redevelopment and urban infill efforts, would still pursue the legal land grabs "from time to time."

"We will have some annexations in the future," Haslam said. "But we don't have any specific plans right now."

Hayes Hickman may be reached at 865-342-6323.

Copyright 2004, Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.

From the Halls Shopper - March 22, 2004

Knoxville won’t get sales tax from Crown Pointe

Knoxville taxpayers have been soaked again. The city’s $2 million investment in a Clinton Highway annexation won’t pay off for a long time.

Former mayor Victor Ashe got unanimous city council approval June 24, 2003, to pay developers of the Crown Pointe Plaza $2.09 million in exchange for the developers dropping their lawsuit to block the annexation of their property. Council member Rob Frost called it "a fairly quick payback" to the city in sales and property taxes.

But the state Attorney General ruled March 12 that the annexation was effective the day the lawsuit was dropped, not the day the Council passed the annexation ordinance.

Both Ashe and his law director, Michael Kelley, had opined the opposite. This means Knox County will continue for 15 years to receive the local sales tax collected at the center which contains the large Kroger and Target stores. The city will get only the increase in sales tax over the amount collected by the county in the 12 months preceding the annexation.

Citizens for Home Rule, an anti-annexation group, had protested loudly when Ashe agreed to pay developer Tim Graham for reimbursement of infrastructure expenses at the already-built center. Graham then dropped his lawsuit to block annexation. The suit had been filed in 1996.

At the time, Ashe said, "The major reason (the agreement) makes sense is that the city will recoup its expense very quickly (in a matter of a few years), and then the area will generate thousands of dollars for the next mayor and city council to use for needed city services. ..."

Atty. Gen. Paul Summers has knocked down the city’s arguments and instructed the state revenue commissioner to leave the sales tax with Knox County.– S. Clark

From the News Sentinel - February 21, 2004

http://www.knoxnews.com/kns/local_news/article/0,1406,KNS_347_2672362,00.html

'Doughnut hole' stirs heartburn

Property owner's annex fight hands Haslam a dilemma

By HAYES HICKMAN, hickman@knews.com

Knoxville city officials contend that Darrell Tipton is a "hole in the doughnut," but the West Knox County property owner refuses to let annexation take a bite.

Years of legal land grabs by the city have now completely surrounded Tipton's half-acre lot at 8420 Kingston Pike where the Disc Exchange is located, leaving him an island of Knox County amid Knoxville-taxed businesses.

Despite the city's argument that Tipton should pay his fair share since his location already affords him the benefits of city services like police protection, three separate annexation attempts over the past 12 years have failed to bring him into the fold.

"It's almost amounted to harassment at this point," Tipton said. "You would think that after you win, they'd say 'enough's enough.'?"

A judge's ruling earlier this month marked the latest defeat for the city in its battle for Tipton's property taxes. The decision also complicates the future of roughly 200 other lawsuits pending against city annexations and poses a new dilemma for Mayor Bill Haslam, who has promised to reform the city's strategy with a more "justifiable" approach.

"It changes the equation. The question is: How do we respond to that?" said Haslam, who in January instituted an unofficial moratorium on new annexations until a better tactic can be crafted.

Officially, the city is allowed to annex adjoining county property under Tennessee's 1998 urban-growth law, which mandated agreements between the state's 95 county governments and the municipalities within their borders.

A 2001 agreement between Knoxville and Knox County further refined the city's powers.

But despite the legal allowances, the city's methods under former Mayor Victor Ashe enraged many county residents and business owners, who complained about after-the-fact notifications welcoming them to Knoxville and a perception that the city is only interested in increasing its tax base.

Tipton's property was first annexed in 1990, resulting in a lawsuit and eventually a hung jury. The city rescinded its annexation ordinance on the land, only to reannex it in 1995.

While Tipton's second lawsuit against the city was still pending, the city rescinded the annexation again in September 2001. But City Council reapproved the annexation a third time in October 2001.

Tipton's was the first such suit the city took to trial since 1992, and the first to be heard since the state's urban-growth law switched the legal recourse for citizens fighting annexations from a jury trial to a bench trial.

City attorneys termed Tipton's property a "hole in a doughnut" that should logically be annexed. Regardless, Chancellor Daryl Fansler ruled that the situation had been created by "the annexation scheme the city had chosen to follow over the past decade regarding this particular piece of property."

City Law Director Morris Kizer says Knoxville will appeal the decision.

As Rick Emmett, the city's urban-growth manager, explains, annexation can be a positive move for property owners. Paying the added city property taxes, city residents don't pay subscription fees for garbage removal or fire protection, he said. Curbside leaf and brush removal, fast emergency response times, community policing and lower homeowners' insurance rates also add to the benefits.

"Homes in the $120,000 range or less usually come out ahead in the process," Emmett said. "Generally."

Haslam sees part of the possible solution as a more proactive effort on the city's part to work with property owners to convince them of the advantages.

"Any good annexation policy should be built around the idea that city services are worth the money," the mayor said. "Our job is to convince people that the city's the place they should live and do business."

A kinder, gentler approach in the future, however, still doesn't solve the question of how to handle the 200 lawsuits that Haslam has inherited from Ashe's administration.

Tipton and his co-owners have countered that they were never interested in the city's services. He is happy to contract for garbage pick-ups and Rural/Metro firefighting service. Infrastructure such as water, sewer and electric utilities were already fully developed without the city's help when he purchased the lot some 20 years ago.

"We're receiving no additional benefits for the extra money," said Tipton, whose property taxes would increase by about $7,000 a year. "I'm a businessman; if it made sense, we'd look at it."

Haslam hasn't indicated a timeline yet for when he will address the issue further, but he said he's willing to meet with people on all sides of the debate before reaching a decision.

"I have to come up with a logical reason," Haslam said. "We have to be able to explain, 'Here's why we're doing that. Here's why we're not doing that.'?"

Hayes Hickman may be reached at 865-342-6323.

Copyright 2004, Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.

From the News Sentinel - February 18, 2004

http://www.knoxnews.com/kns/west_knox/article/0,1406,KNS_369_2659882,00.html

City's bid to annex county site foiled

By BARBARA WOMACK, barbewoma@aol.com
February 18, 2004

Opponents of Knoxville's annexation strategy hail a judge's recent ruling that struck down the city's annexation of the Disc Exchange in West Knox County as a landmark case.

Chancellor Daryl Fansler held earlier this month that the city cannot take advantage of a condition it created to expand its borders. He further said the emergency ordinance passed by City Council was invalid because it exceeded the city's authority.

"We think this is of great significance because of 200 pending (annexation) suits. The Ashe administration picked this one because they thought it was their best case," said John Emison, president of Citizens for Home Rule.

Although CHR was not a party in this case, it has about 200 other suits pending in Chancery Court against annexations citywide. Darrell L. Tipton, one of the owners of the Disc Exchange property and a plaintiff in the suit, is a CHR member, Emison said.

"We are delighted with the ruling. I do not see anything in (Fansler's) words that would tell me he considered this to be a close case," Emison said.

Fansler said in his ruling that the plaintiffs had met the burden of proof that the "health, safety and welfare of the citizens and the property owners of the municipality and the territory will not be seriously retarded by the absence of the annexation." Under provisions of the state Comprehensive Growth Plan that went into effect in 2000, the plaintiff has the burden of proof to show the annexation is not in their best interests.

City attorneys had also taken the position that the property in question was subject to being annexed because it was a "hole in the doughnut," surrounded by other tracts previously taken in by the city. And it was within the city's urban growth boundaries.

But Fansler ruled that the situation had been created by "the annexation scheme the city had chosen to follow over the past decade regulating this particular piece of property."

The ruling came after the end of the administration of former Mayor Victor Ashe. Mayor Bill Haslam, who took office in December, has announced he is suspending further annexations until he has time to study the issue.

Amy Nolan, spokeswoman for the Mayor's office, said Haslam is taking the ruling under advisement as part of his analysis.

"The mayor and the law department are reviewing the ruling to see what options the city has as we develop a sound policy," Nolan said.

The city has 60 days from Feb. 3, the date of the ruling, to decide whether to appeal.

Barbara Womack may also be reached at 865-690-3473.

Copyright 2004, KnoxNews. All Rights Reserved.

From the Halls Shopper - February 11, 2004

by Sandra Clark

City loses annexation test case

The city of Knoxville has lost the annexation case it most wanted to try. On Feb. 3, Chancellor Daryl Fansler ruled that the city had improperly annexed property on Kingston Pike owned by Darrell L. Tipton, Michael E. Ross and Dale M. Ross. The business is The Disc Exchange.

The city had previously annexed the property, then de-annexed it, then re-annexed it following passage of the urban growth law.

That law created an urban growth boundary in which annexations could occur. Land outside the urban growth boundary was protected from annexations for a period of time. The burden of proof that the annexation was or was not necessary shifted from the city to the property owner on land inside the growth boundary; and the right to a jury trial was denied.

With some 200 annexation cases pending, the city selected this one because The Disc Exchange is an island, surrounded by other annexed parcels on Kingston Pike. The state attorney general’s office joined in to defend the growth law. And the city hired outside counsel to help defend the lawsuit.

On the other side stood David L. Buuck, a lawyer retained by Citizens for Home Rule (CHR) to represent the interests of its members who are involuntarily annexed.

Currently there are some 200 annexation cases pending here – most of them filed by Buuck on behalf of CHR members. The annexation does not occur while the litigation is pending, so CHR has blocked these involuntary annexations. (This writer serves on the CHR board.) Fansler hit head-on the city’s argument that The Disc Exchange is a hole in the doughnut.

Fansler said this “hole” was not created by the legislature nor by statutory construction employed by the court, but rather by the “annexing scheme the city chose to follow over the past decade regarding this particular piece of property.”

Fansler also said the city’s annexation of the property by emergency ordinance (to avoid two readings) was “an exercise of power not conferred by law and is invalid.”

He assessed the court costs against the city of Knoxville.

Buuck was instructed to prepare an order incorporating Fansler’s Feb. 3 Memorandum Opinion. He must submit it to the city, then to the Chancellor. “When the Chancellor signs it, the city has 60 days to appeal,” Buuck said.

That decision will be made by mayor Bill Haslam, who earlier said he would “step back” from annexations prepared by his predecessor, Victor Ashe. Haslam must decide whether to appeal The Disc Exchange case and also what to do about the other 200 cases.

Meanwhile, CHR president John Emison was ecstatic: “We owe much of the success of CHR to the persistence of our members, the dedication of our board, and the considerable legal expertise of David Buuck. He is the tops and we are thankful that he’s on our side. ... And unlike the divided or equivocal loyalty that seems rife in the legal profession, David is actually on our side,” Emison said.

“This decision validated what we have said for many years. The Ashe Administration abused their authority.

“Chancellor Fansler put it quite succinctly when he stated that this annexation was “an exercise of power not conferred by law.” In layman’s terms it means the city violated the law, and they did it hundreds of times during the Ashe Administration. And this was the city’s ‘best’ case.

“The legislature took away the right of trial by jury, and they tilted the playing field so that the cities were supposed to have a unchallengeable advantage. And those changes were made under intense lobbying efforts by the Tennessee Municipal League and the lobbyists for the city of Knoxville.

“We still won.

“So, let’s put aside all this nonsense that if a piece of property is inside the urban growth boundary that’s all the city needs to know to annex it. That’s not true! “The point is that mayor Haslam has stepped back, which is the wise thing to do. This ruling gives him a good reason to rescind the 200 pending annexations and to drop all those suits instead of trying and losing them.”

Citizens for Home Rule is exploring litigation to challenge hundreds of annexations that are already on the books, including property on Callahan Road and some on Asheville Highway. Emison said they were done incorrectly.

© 2004 Shopper Publications, Inc.

From the Metro Pulse - January 29 - February 4, 2004

The And/Or of Annexations

by Joe Sullivan

Mayor Bill Haslam has pulled back from any further annexations on the city's part until, he says, "I have a policy we can defend and that I believe in." In arriving at such a policy he may need to look no further than the statute governing annexations that the state Legislature enacted in 1998.

That statute, known as the Growth Plan Law, seemingly encouraged annexation by providing for the creation in each county of Urban Growth Boundaries within which a city would be permitted to annex. After two years of wrangling, the city and Knox County agreed upon a boundary encompassing 46 square miles of territory outside the present city limits that was a fair field for the city to extend its borders.

Further favoring annexation, or so it seemed, the statute shifted the burden of proof in cases where a property owner subjected to annexation contested it in court. Previously, a municipality had the burden of proving, in such cases that, "an annexation ordinance is reasonable for the overall well-being of the communities involved" (with the annexed territory defined to be one of the communities).

Not once in more than a decade of aggressive annexation under former Mayor Victor Ashe did the city ever prevail in a lawsuit under this standard. Hence, the 23 square miles of mostly commercial property that Ashe managed to bring into the city was all annexed by consent, or at least went uncontested.

Under the 1998 statute, the burden of proof shifted to a property owner contesting an annexation. But in a way that apparently went unheeded by municipalities, the Legislature added a second standard to the test of an annexation's validity so that the law now reads as follows:

"The party [challenging an annexation] has the burden of proving that:

1.) An annexation ordinance is unreasonable for the overall well-being of the communities involved; or

2.) The health, safety, and welfare of the citizens and property owners of the municipality and [the annexed] territory will not be materially retarded in the absence of such annexation."

The wording of (2.) is so legalistic as to almost defy comprehension by a layman at first reading. But it's the heart of the matter. So read it again and then let me try to parse the sentence for you. Stripped to its essentials, the law says you can only be annexed if your health, safety, and welfare will be materially retarded if you aren't.

Faced with defending more than 200 suits contesting annexations since the new law took effect, the Ashe administration's law department has contended that the law doesn't mean what it says. The key word in its contention is the OR between the (1.) and the (2.).

When the 1998 legislation went through the House and the Senate, they were connected by an AND. Proving both (1.) and (2.) would indeed be difficult in challenging an annexation. However, a House-Senate conference committee saw fit, for whatever reason, to change the AND to OR, and that's the way the legislation got enacted.

In the one suit that has gone to trial under the new law, a city law department post-trial memorandum asserts that, "the 'or' clearly appears to be a drafting error." The memorandum goes on to argue that, "in order to effectuate the legislative intent... the word 'or'...should be construed as 'and.' Under such construction, the statute is sensible in that it does not lead to an absurd result as hypothesized where the annexation of a property that is totally surrounded by the city limits is clearly reasonable but material retardation may perhaps be questionable due to the fact that the property in question already benefits directly and/or indirectly from municipal services."

However, a key figure in effecting the change in the conference committee, Rep. Harry Tindell says, "It would be ludicrous to think it was a drafting error." Nor has there been any attempt to change it in the five years since the law went into effect.

In any event, it's a well-established principle of law that legislative history is relevant in construing a statute only if the statute is ambiguous. Since there is no ambiguity in the meaning of the word "or," the city law department's attempt to contest it is irrelevant.

The suit in question involves the city's attempted annexation of the property on which the Disc Exchange is located at 8420 Kingston Pike. The Disc Exchange's owner, Alan Miller, insists he's well satisfied with the services he's receiving outside the city, including law enforcement by the Knox County Sheriff, fire protection by Rural Metro, and water and sewer services by First Utilities District. It's true that Miller and his landlord benefit from city streetlights, traffic signals and the like on Kingston Pike. But these were put in place to serve the long list of commercial properties along the pike that Ashe managed to annex voluntarily. So the Disc Exchange property is just an incidental beneficiary of services being provided to the properties that surround it.

The suit was tried last fall in Chancery Court, but Chancellor Daryl Fansler has yet to render a decision. As I'm not exactly sure what "materially retarded" means, and I'm not a lawyer, let alone a judge, perhaps I ought to refrain from rendering an opinion on the merits of the suit. But it's totally implausible to me that the health, safety and welfare of the Disc Exchange property owners is being materially retarded in the absence of annexation.

Fansler's decision in the matter (also allowing for any appeal thereof) should go a long way toward setting what annexation policy Bill Haslam can defend. If the decision goes against the city, the only policy that's defensible is to stick to voluntary annexations-and there are good reasons why some commercial properties and even some homeowners may welcome being incorporated into the city and subjected to its taxes.

This policy may not serve the city's interests as well as a more expansive one; but unless and until the law is changed, the city must abide by it.

January 29, 2003 * Vol. 14, No. 5 © 2004 Metro Pulse

From the News Sentinel - January 14, 2004 http://www.knoxnews.com/kns/todays_editorial/article/0,1406,KNS_362_2573746,00.html

Editorial - Haslam taking right tact with annexations
January 14, 2004

We applaud Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam's recent decision to step back from annexing county land.

Seven new annexations were on the agenda for the Jan. 6 City Council meeting as unfinished business carried over from former Mayor Victor Ashe's administration. Haslam, however, withdrew the annexations, saying he plans to fulfill his campaign promise to re-examine the issue so he can draft a more coherent annexation policy.

"I just decided to step back and pull them all off the table," he said. "Until I have a policy that we can defend and that I believe in, I decided to pull them all back."

Annexation has been a contentious issue for some time. In fact, Citizens for Home Rule has about 200 outstanding annexation lawsuits against the city.

An example of what some residents cite as the absurdity of the issue is the property of Walter Harrington, who lives in Kingston Woods. About one-third of his lot on Luscombe Drive is within the city limits; the rest is in the county. Harrington crosses the line every time he goes to his kitchen.

"All they were looking for was a little extra money," Harrington said in a story in July. "I wish they'd leave us alone."

Annexation would cost him $600 more a year in city property taxes, adding to the $160 in city taxes he currently pays. He also pays $850 annually in Knox County property taxes.

Ashe, however, contended that annexation is necessary for the orderly growth of the city.

The city and county signed an agreement in 2001 instituting a seven-year moratorium in residential annexations except for Kingston Woods.

Tennessee's 1998 urban-growth law switched the legal recourse for citizens fighting annexation from a jury trial to a bench trial. As a result, the city rescinded many of its annexations that were challenged by lawsuits. The city later re-annexed the parcels under the new law when property owners would bear the burden of proof.

John Emison, president of Citizens for Home Rule, applauds Haslam's decision. "It's the right thing to do and the smart thing to do," he said.

Emison said the decision is part of a larger apparent effort by Haslam and county Mayor Mike Ragsdale to improve city-county cooperation, and we think that is the crux of the matter.

Citizens are tired of the animosity between the city and the county. To them, it's a matter of getting one's house in order, particularly for residents of the city, who also live in the county. And, when the squabbles escalate to court cases, it is the taxpayer who foots the bill.

"There is a new spirit of cooperation," said Knox County spokesman Mike Cohen. "It's one piece of a whole array of things that the two mayors are going to work together on."

As long as we are applauding the new attitude of mutual respect, it seems timely to mention Haslam's comment that he doesn't plan to rename any streets. We appreciate this move, too.

Ashe renamed 12 streets in 2003 and 30 over the past 12 years. Some cities have policies that reserve such honors for the deceased, but Knoxville doesn't. Ashe's honors - which included names for parks, swimming pools, scenic overlooks and rifle ranges - went to ex-presidents, athletes, political contemporaries and even sitting elected officials who attended the ribbon cuttings.

A recent letter to the editor pointed out that frequent name changes are confusing to newcomers to the area who are trying to follow maps that are quickly outdated from one council meeting to another.

The bottom line is that we believe Haslam is making a sincere attempt to apply some common sense to the problems that face the city and to make life easier for the people who live here. That strikes us as a sound policy for a new mayor and new administration.

Copyright 2004, Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.

From the Metro Pulse - November 13, 2003

Annexation or No?
A primer on the state of the law

The city of Knoxville has fought business owners for decades over the incorporation of Knox County land into the city's boundary. The annexation policy has proven to be a time-consuming and expensive pursuit for the city. Because affected property owners are neither personally notified of a pending annexation nor given the right to a jury trial in its proceedings, the matter can be to an excruciating process for them.

A representative from the city, who did not wish to be quoted, explains property annexation this way: It allows the city to: a.) monitor growth and development on its borders, and b.) provide public safety assistance.

Citizens for Home Rule, Inc. works as a support network for those in the midst of annexation proceedings. Chartered in 1980, the advocacy organization provides the financial and legal means for homeowners and business owners annexed against their will to file suit and block annexation. "We have 200 suits pending on behalf of our members on a chancery court docket right now," says CHR President John Emison. "Our organization has sued the city of Knoxville without a doubt more than any organization in the 200-year history of the city, and we've never lost."

Annexation became even more of a hot-button issue in May 1998, when Tennessee passed the Urban Growth Law. The law requires municipalities to designate a planned growth area by defining urban and rural boundaries, and it dictates where a city can annex for 20 years. The city of Knoxville takes the position that the growth plan is necessary, because 90 to 95 percent of the area is already developed, and the undeveloped properties are either environmentally sensitive or on steep slopes. The city acknowledges that properties can be redeveloped, but its officials say healthy cities have a balance of new growth and redevelopment.

Citizens for Home Rule might soon challenge the Urban Growth Law in court over the law's controversial elimination jury trial when individual property appeal annexations. Under the new law, appeals are decided by a chancellor.

"We don't think that the legislation has the authority to limit trial by jury in this means." Emison says. "If we were to lose, and the chancellor would rule in favor of the city, we're going to appeal it. In the appeal process, we would appeal not only the verdict, but we would appeal the constitutional issue."

In response, the city says that a trial-by-jury provision has only been in effect for 20 years. Until 1978, a trial judge determined annexation cases. At that time, the Legislature changed the law to require a jury trial, and 20 years later it reversed itself. Because a jury requires a unanimous verdict for annexation, legislators recognized that when one property owner files a lawsuit, it effectively stopped any kind of reasonable annexation from occurring, the city official says.

Another point of debate has been the lack of notification given to property owners. A function of the CHR is to notify the property owners to be annexed and give them an opportunity to block it. "We write all those people. We take it upon ourselves to let people know what's happening. We provide that information to the public at no expense to the taxpayer, and the mayor spends quite a lot of city resources concealing it from the folks who are affected by it," says Emison.

The city publishes a list of annexed businesses in the News Sentinel classifieds, with a map, 15 days before public hearing. "They know what the street address of the property is, but they don't run that in the paper," Emison continues, "Instead of the name of the property owner or a street address, they assign a number...to it."

However, the city meets the requirements of law and the standard for cities across the country, according to an official, who says that the problem with sending letters is that people will claim that they did not get a letter, or if they did receive a letter, they did not understand it.

In addition, the city is required to send a plan of service to the Metropolitan Planning Commission where tax parcel numbers can be identified. The CHR searches through the numbers in order to find the property owner and contact information. "We go into the public records, search out and find out on our own all of the information that the city had on a property-by-property basis to start the process and, unlike the city, we write them and let them know what's going on," Emison says.

The CHR's says Ashe administration annexes properties for revenue, and the rise in the number of annexations is in direct correlation to the financial status of Knoxville. "It's only been a couple of months since the city made a $2 million cash payout to a hotel developer in exchange for dropping an annexation lawsuit, and the explanation that the mayor gave was that it was quick payback. It's not my opinion that they annex for revenue, it's the words that come out of his mouth as part of their rationale and justification," Emison says of the Crown Pointe Plaza on Clinton Highway at Callahan Drive.

The city position is that there has not been a rise in the number of annexations. The properties currently involved were considered for annexation in the early 1980s, and the process was stopped by individual property owners. The city's response is that there were two annexation studies done in 1980 and 1986. In both studies, the planning commission considered future growth where urban areas were anticipated to develop in the next 20 years and made recommendations on annexation.

The CHR is optimistic about the forthcoming administration. "Mayor-elect Haslam seems to be a reasonable person who has things he wants to accomplish. What we think would be a goodwill gesture of cooperation between the city and the county is for the Haslam administration to take the 200 annexations where suits are standing against them and rescind those." Emison says, "I look for much more amenable cooperation between the county and the city administration with Bill Haslam and Mike Ragsdale in the driver's seat[s]."

—Clint Casey

From the News-Sentinel - July 5, 2003
Citizens for Home Rule doesn't plan to challenge Knoxville's term limits restriction for now

By GEORGIANA VINES, vines@knews.com

. . . . . . . Citizens for Home Rule doesn't plan to challenge Knoxville's term limits restriction for now - in part because the anti-annexation organization believes that's what the Victor Ashe administration wanted. "The Victorcrats wanted to clear the air and we decided not to cooperate," said John Emison, the group's president.

"It's good not to be involved in other litigations," said City Law Director Michael Kelley. The group and Kelley are on different sides as to whether former 2nd District Councilwoman Jean Teague can run for Council at-large seat B. Kelley said the charter establishing term limits for the mayor and council members doesn't preclude Teague from running for a different council position. Emison's group disagrees.

The group now will await the outcome of the elections, Emison said. Citizens for Home Rule may seek a remedy for an election commission to have authority to determine eligibility, Emison said. County Law Director Mike Moyers had told the Election Commission it did not have authority to determine Teague's qualification.

One "simple fix" is to amend the state law to place only candidates who are eligible to hold office on the ballot, he said. "It might be the world's shortest bill. I can't imagine it would take more than two or three sentences," Emison said.

Associate Editor Georgiana Vines' column appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. She may be reached at 865-342-6343 or vines@knews.com.

Copyright 2003, Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.

From the Halls Shopper - 6/30/03
City to pay $2.09 million to Crown Pointe to drop annexation lawsuit

The Knoxville city council has voted to spend up to $2.09 million over a two-year period to developers of the Crown Pointe Plaza (Clinton Highway at Callahan Drive) in exchange for the developers dropping their opposition to annexation of the property.

Mayor Victor Ashe requested the appropriation, which passed June 24, and council member Rob Frost said it’s his understand that there will be “a fairly quick payback” to the city in sales and property taxes.

The resolution said the city’s payment will be “reimbursement of public improvement costs.”

Concurrently, the developers plan to drop their lawsuit to oppose the annexation of their property. “I guess they resolved their differences,” said Frost, a lawyer.

He suggested that the city may be able to recover 100 percent of the sales tax since the annexation occurred before passage of the state’s urban growth law which limited the city for 15 years to the increase in sales tax following an annexation.– S. Clark

Ashe responds

We e-mailed this story to Knoxville mayor Victor Ashe seeking a response. Why did the city pay $2.09 million to developers to get them to drop their anti-annexation lawsuit? He wrote:

“To settle the lawsuit makes sense as opposed to dropping the annexation and starting over again or continuing the lawsuit. I commend Michael Kelley, city law director, for working days with (Crown Pointe Plaza developer) Tim Graham to settle it. City council unanimously approved it on June 24.

The major reason it makes sense is that the city will recoup its expense very quickly (in a matter of a few years) and then the area will generate thousands of dollars for the next mayor and city council to use for needed city services such as police, fire, job creation and parks.

Otherwise the lawsuit could have gone on for years with no resolution in sight. That would have cost city taxpayers and denied this property important city services such as police and fire and First Responder.”

From the News-Sentinel - 5/31/03
Group seeks enforcement of term limits

Group seeks enforcement of term limits

By GEORGIANA VINES, vines@Knews.com

Citizens for Home Rule, an anti-annexation group, has asked the Election Commission to keep the name of former Councilwoman Jean Teague off the city ballot this year. The issue is term limits.

A letter from John A. Emison, the group's president, doesn't mention Teague by name, but those attending a commission meeting Tuesday in which Emison's request was made had no doubt she's the target. Emison's group, with 350 members representing dozens of subdivisions, said the term-limit provision of the City Charter says "no person" is eligible to serve in a city office "if during the previous two terms of that office the person in question has served more than a single term."

City Law Director Michael Kelley disagrees with the group's interpretation since Teague seeks to be a candidate for the at-large B seat this year. She held the 2nd District position for 28 years and was ineligible to run again two years ago.

"Because she has sat out a two-year period, she is entitled to run for an at-large office," Kelley said. Also, lawyer David Creekmore, who was representing County Law Director Mike Moyers at the meeting, said challenges in other cases over qualifications applied in Teague's case. Creekmore had a letter written last year in which Moyers told the Election Commission its sole authority is to determine whether a candidate's qualifying petition is properly filled out.

Teague has appointed a treasurer for fund-raising efforts and has taken out a qualifying petition. "It hasn't been turned in. What's the question?" she asked.

Election Commission Chairwoman Pam Reeves said no action was taken at the meeting. She said that based on Moyers' letter, the Election Commission has no discretion on term limits. "We will abide by terms of state election laws," Reeves said. "That will be our plan when and if it becomes an issue."

Mayor Victor Ashe said the questions on Teague are "silly and represent sour grapes at its worst." "Citizens have the right to run for office, and the voters determine the merit of their campaigns - not the lawyers or backroom dealing on technicalities," he said.

Emison said his group is prepared to go to court, but first, the group's attorney will contact Moyers to argue the Election Commission does have authority to determine eligibility. To date, Teague's opponents in the council race are W.L. "Buck" Cochran Jr., Norris Dryer, Alonzo Montgomery and Chris Woodhull.

Copyright 2003, Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.

From the Metro Pulse - 3/20/03
Council Come Home

Longtime readers of this column may recall that we have, when it suits us, railed very politely about City Council's periodic meetings out in the hinterlands, sometimes in hard-to-find locations, frequently in schools with tiny chairs and bad lighting, and always without benefit of live TV coverage (the meetings in locations other than the City County building are taped and shown later).

Turns out that John Emison, president of the annexation-fighting Citizens for Home Rule, agrees with us. When he learned that this week's regularly scheduled Council meeting (which was to feature the annexation of several unwilling property owners) was to be held at Ridgedale Elementary School, he sent out the following email:

"This is outrageous, even by Victor Ashe's standards (and I'm using that word in its most generic sense). To think that upwards of 50 property owners will have their property tax burden doubled for eternity, and that this business will not even be conducted at the regular seat of city government is quite reminiscent of the complaints in the Declaration of Independence against the 'history of repeated injuries and usurpations' of King George III.... He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures....'"

Note to Emison: That was plumb eloquent.

From the Knoxville News-Sentinel - 1/21/03
Knoxville grows by annexing lot by lot

One target is a 75-acre cattle farm on Black Oak Ridge

By SCOTT BARKER, barkers@knews.com January 21, 2003

A more rural setting than the farm Chris Crutchfield runs at the end of Bradley Lake Lane is hard to imagine.

It takes a four-wheel-drive truck to climb through dense hardwoods up the rugged slopes of Black Oak Ridge to the hilltop pasture where Crutchfield raises Texas longhorn and Guernsey cattle. He shoots skeet for sport, quail for meat and coyotes to protect his herd. Wild turkeys wander through from time to time, flipping over cow patties in a search for bugs to eat.

But Crutchfield is poised to become a city boy without even moving. Knoxville is in the process of annexing the 74-acre tract he farms, along with two adjacent agricultural parcels in Northwest Knox County. The Knoxville City Council has given initial approval for the 172 1/2-acre annexation.

Crutchfield, a pipe-smoking 49-year-old with a classic rancher's face and a bad back courtesy of a motorcycle wreck, is puzzled and angry the city wants to annex the property.

"It's beautiful," he said after pouring sweet feed into makeshift troughs for the cattle. "I don't know what they're trying to do."

What the city is doing is expanding by small increments - almost lot by lot - with little fanfare and no serious political opposition. After two years under a state-mandated growth plan, Knoxville has grown by 41/4 square miles via the annexation of 480 individual parcels.

The political strife between the city and Knox County that accompanied annexations past has vanished. The cease-fire can be traced to Tennessee's 1998 urban growth law, which mandated agreements between the state's 95 county governments and the municipalities within their borders. The pacts divided each county into three zones, including an area where cities could freely annex over a 20-year period.

Knoxville and Knox County worked out an agreement in 2001 that further limited the city's powers. Knox County agreed to pay the city $7 million for economic development and gave the city two seats on the board of directors of the Development Corp. of Knox County. In exchange, the city swore off annexing platted subdivisions without the consent of property owners for seven years.

The parties didn't exclude agricultural land. As long as it's inside Knoxville's 47-square-mile urban growth zone and borders the city limits, farmland like Crutchfield's is fair game.

City and county officials agree that coming to terms has defused the issue, at least as far as the governments are concerned.

Mayor Victor Ashe said the pact "basically put to bed a contentious issue between the city and county. I don't consider it a big issue anymore."

Knox County Law Director Mike Moyers said he has a good working relationship with his municipal counterpart, Michael Kelley, which helps resolve disputes before they threaten the peace.

Two weeks ago, the city agreed to withdraw an annexation off Clinton Highway when officials discovered a house in the Cherokee Ridge subdivision is still being used as a residence, though it's zoned for office use.

Until the seven-year moratorium expires in 2008, taking in farmland before it's subdivided is the easiest way for the city to swallow a subdivision.

The only exception to the residential moratorium is in Kingston Woods, which was already more than half in the city when officials signed the pact. Though the city has annexed most of the remaining residences there, some Kingston Woods property owners still chafe at being annexed.

Virginia Blanchard, who owns a rental house on Cessna Road in Kingston Woods, said she's recently raised the rent for her tenants to cover the cost of recent improvements to the property. She reckons it would cost an additional $50 per month to pay for city property taxes if the annexation moves forward.

"We have two ideal renters. I'm afraid if we go up on the rent they would move," she told city officials at an annexation hearing on Wednesday.

With city and county governments getting along these days, property owners like Crutchfield and Blanchard have to go outside the political arena to the courthouse, where the burden of proof is on them, if they choose to fight.

Citizens for Home Rule, a grassroots organization that's been contesting annexations for 22 years, represents nearly 200 plaintiffs in dozens of lawsuits pending against the city. John Emison, president of the group, said that while many joined to resist paying higher taxes, for most it's a matter of allowing them to choose where they live.

"There are three reasons people don't want forced annexation," he said. "First, they don't want it. Second, they don't want it. Third, they don't want it."

Emison especially doesn't like the state urban growth law, which switched the legal recourse for citizens fighting annexation from a jury trial to a bench trail.

While the state appeals courts likely will have to rule on the constitutionality of the law, the city has enjoyed the upper hand thus far.

"We've prevailed on all the constitutional challenges in the trial courts," Kelley said.

Kelley said most people who show up at City Council meetings or mandatory annexation hearings to complain usually cite higher taxes as the reason they don't want to be annexed.

City officials argue that many citizens living in the county pay almost as much for fewer services. Craig Griffith, Ashe's deputy mayor, said city residents don't have to pay subscriptions for garbage removal and fire protection like county residents do. He touts curbside leaf and brush removal, fast emergency response times, community policing and other programs as amenities that make city life attractive.

The city also helps resolve neighborhood issues, Griffith said, citing the city's purchase of a piece of property in Kingston Woods to keep a developer from building an apartment complex opposed by many in the neighborhood. The land is now a pocket park.

"For most people, the combination of the ability to write off property taxes, plus not having to pay subscription fees, plus savings on homeowners insurance, can potentially offset any increased property taxes they pay," Griffith said.

For Crutchfield, the rub isn't taxes. His residence, on a parcel adjacent to the farm, isn't included in the annexation, and ownership of the farm property itself is tied up in probate. He's more worried that becoming a city dweller would wreck his rural lifestyle.

City officials say he would be able to continue running cattle, but discharging firearms is illegal inside the city limits. The city law department is researching thorny codes issues such as whether he would be able to erect electric fencing, which he says he'll need when he adds bulls to the herd. Kelley is recommending City Council delay the final vote on annexing the property until Feb. 18.

City officials also may not want to alter the rural character of some annexed property. Ashe said taking in farmland is the only way the city would be able to add large parks. If that's what the mayor has in mind for the Bradley Lake Lane area, he and Crutchfield may find themselves on common ground.

Crutchfield said he would never subdivide the land. He maintains it's too rugged, for one thing, but he also said it should remain rural in character.

Annexed or not, he said, "I would turn it into a nature park to keep out developers."

Scott Barker may be reached at 865-342-6309. Copyright 2003, Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.

From the Knoxville News-Sentinel - 1/11/03
City delays annexing portion of subdivision

Action would have violated agreement By SCOTT BARKER, barkers@knews.com January 11, 2003

Knoxville officials retreated from an attempt to annex a portion of a subdivision off Clinton Highway this week after finding out the move likely would violate its annexation agreement with the county.

Mayor Victor Ashe's administration moved to annex four parcels of property in the Cherokee Ridge subdivision, and Knoxville City Council gave its initial approval on Tuesday.

The property is zoned for office use, which makes it fair game for annexation under an agreement between the city and county. But Citizens for Home Rule, a dogged opponent of city expansion, discovered at least one of the Cherokee Ridge houses is being used as a residence. The 2001 agreement established a seven-year moratorium on residential annexations unless a subdivision is already more than half in the city.

Knoxville Law Director Michael Kelley said Friday he didn't believe the Cherokee Ridge annexation would violate the agreement, but the administration decided to table it because of the uncertainty surrounding the measure.

"We'll make a decision at a later time about whether we would want to reconsider it," Kelley said.

John Emison, president of Citizens for Home Rule, notified county officials about the possible violation after a review of pending annexation ordinances.

Knox County Law Director Mike Moyers said the spirit of the moratorium agreement is to protect residences, regardless of the zoning classification of the property. He said city officials promptly offered to withdraw the annexation after being notified of the possible violation. City Council was to have considered it for final approval on Jan. 21.

"The point of the agreement is to protect people from having their homes annexed. In this particular case, that wasn't the city's intent," Moyers said.

Emison said his organization, which represents scores of plaintiffs suing the city over unwanted annexations, wants the city to follow the pact to the letter.

"Our concern is the city's verbatim compliance," Emison said.

If the settlement had been breached, the city would have had to refund to the county about $5 million in economic development grants.

"We're elated. When the city backs down like this, it's an admission they were wrong from the get-go," Emison said. "It takes a watchdog citizens group to call their hand on this. It's just ridiculous."

Scott Barker may be reached at 865-342-6309.

Copyright 2003, Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.

From the Halls Shopper 9/17/02
CHR Appeals Decision

Citizens for Home Rule has been granted permission to appeal a recent ruling in Chancery Court which upheld the constitutionality of the state's urban growth law including the provision that restricts an annexed property owner's right to a jury trial.

Chancellor Sharon Bell, in a prior ruling, held that the statutory provision denying a jury trial in an annexation case was constitutional. CHR then asked for the right to take an interlocutory appeal to the State Court of Appeals because it was such an important issue.

According to CHR attorney David Buuck, an interlocutory appeal is one that is made while the case is still active. Most appeals can only be taken after one side wins or loses the entire case. The Chancellor felt that this was such an important issue that it should go to the appellate Courts before any other action is taken in the case. The city of Knoxville opposed CHR's request. The Court of Appeals has no obligation to hear the case, but the request will be made. – S. Clark

". . .the right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate. . ."
Tennessee Constitution, Article I, paragraph 6

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