Grays Creek Annexation on City’s Agenda

On February 7, 2012, in News 2012, by Mark Norris
February 7, 2012

Memphis City Council members take up the first of three readings Tuesday, Feb. 7, of an ordinance to annex the Grays Creek area that is in the city’s annexation reserve area.

The ordinance is a reaction to pending state legislation in Nashville that would remove part of the area from the Memphis annexation reserve.

The council meeting begins at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St.

State Senate Republican leader Mark Norris, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, is awaiting a legal opinion from the Tennessee Attorney General’s office on the constitutionality of the proposal. Norris said last week and has told council members that he believes the legal opinion will go against the measure and the measure will have to be withdrawn.

Council members will talk over the latest development at an 11 a.m. committee session. They will also discuss a resolution by council member Shea Flinn that would set up a review of all agreements – including the annexation agreement – among the seven towns and cities within Shelby County. The ad hoc committee would recommend revisions to some of those agreements by the end of this year.

Flinn is among those on the council expressing doubts about annexing the Grays Creek area even if the legislation in Nashville stands and is approved.

Their thought is that the city could pass on an annexation of the area and the considerable political emotions any annexation creates and instead focus on a legal challenge to reverse the law.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. acknowledged that it would be futile for the city to try to act before the legislature in anticipation of what the legislature might do in the way of creating new laws.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam remained resolutely in the gallery on the Shelby County annexation dispute last week as he visited Memphis to tout his second year agenda as outlined in his State of the State address.

“I would be really surprised if it went forward,” Haslam said of the legislation. “I’ve been a mayor (of Knoxville) and there’s nothing that quite gets the blood pressure rising like annexation.”

Council member Bill Boyd was among those who got a taste of the emotional reaction after the council committee session last week.

“Y’all arbitrarily run over people in the county,” Cordis York told Boyd outside the committee room after the council’s annexation discussion.

“The legislature started the whole thing,” Boyd said after listening for several minutes.

“You earn the problems you get in Nashville,” York replied.

Annexation is a politically sensitive topic because it is how cities grow their tax bases with a reliable revenue stream of property taxes as well as sales taxes. And even if city services don’t grow or expand, the cost of providing those same services increases.

Those living in the areas to be annexed usually oppose the move to annex because it means paying more in taxes with the complaint frequently being that city services lag far behind the more immediate impact on their taxes.

“I think it’s important for mayors and municipalities to protect their right to do that,” Haslam said. “I ended up not doing a lot of annexations when I was mayor. But I was glad I had the right to do it if I felt like I needed to for the city.”

Haslam wouldn’t speculate on what he would do if the legislation is approved and a bill comes to his desk.

It’s a position identical to the one Haslam took a year ago at about this time as the legislature and the city of Memphis tangled over the law that established the ground rules for schools consolidation.

Other items on Tuesday’s council agenda include setting a hearing date on a proposal for 328 apartment units at Winchester and Forest Hill-Irene roads. The proposal is an amendment to the Forest Hill Heights planned development.

The council also has scheduled third and final reading votes on the ordinance to consolidate the city’s divisions of community enhancement, park services and public services into a single city division; an ordinance to increase the hotel-motel bed tax to 2.7 percent; and a Nov. 8 ballot item to amend the city charter and require the mayor to submit a six-year consolidated budget plan to the council.

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