Austin begins final round of annexations before state law changes

Oct 11, 2017
Erich Schlegel
Tim Mattox lives in the River Place neighborhood already slated for annexation in December. The Austin City Council is now considering whether to annex about 212 acres adjacent to that area, mostly involving land owned by the River Place Municipal Utility District.

The Austin City Council on Thursday will begin the city’s final round of annexations before a state law takes effect that will require elections or petitions before the city can add more landowners to its tax base.

The city has set three public hearings for Thursday to gather input on three tracts it is set to annex in November. They are the last parcels of land the city will add before Senate Bill 6 takes effect Dec. 1.

State lawmakers passed the SB 6 during this year’s special session at the behest of Gov. Greg Abbott, who made the law one of his top priorities.

THE BACK STORY: Bill would give residents final say on whether they’re annexed

Proponents of the bill say it gives more power to voters in unincorporated areas who might be suspicious or resistant to the increased taxes that generally come when a city annexes land. Critics of the bill, including many at Austin City Hall who opposed the legislation, say it hems in cities’ ability to raise revenue and allows those living just outside of cities to benefit from city services and public works while not paying their due.

Virginia Collier, Austin’s planner in charge of annexations, said the city aims to annex the three parcels to avoid creating “islands” of unincorporated land surrounded by the city of Austin. The tracts include land adjacent to the River Place Municipal Utility District; that district became a local focal point in the Legislature’s passage of the SB 6.

Many members of the neighborhood fought the upcoming annexation of the western Travis County country club neighborhood, which was set in motion years ago. Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, attempted to have the MUD’s annexation nullified in SB 6, but failed to get his amendment added.

VISIT VOTETRACKER: See how your Austin City Council member voted on key issues

When Abbott signed SB 6 on Aug. 15, River Place resident and homeowner association board member Tim Mattox said he was disappointed River Place did not escape annexation but was happy for the bill’s passage.

“I think Texans overall are going to be well served by it,” Mattox said.

Three to annex. Photo: American-Statesman Staff

About 212 acres adjacent to River Place are up for annexation. Collier said there is only one home on the property.

About 35 homes are set for annexation in far South Austin near Manchaca Road and Mooreland Drive. Collier said the city had intended to annex that 34-acre tract about a year ago, but instead held off to let residents acclimate themselves with the idea of joining Austin proper.

The third tract is 27 acres on the east side of Interstate 35 just south of Slaughter Lane where the business Austin HOLT CAT is located.

RELATED: How the HOLT CAT annexation will pull money from Travis County ESD No. 11

After Dec. 1, cities in counties with populations above 500,000 will need to get voter approval from residents in areas targeted for annexation if 200 or more people live there. A city would have to circulate a petition for annexation of areas with fewer than 200 residents and get signatures from a majority of the property owners.