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Judge dismisses Gray annexation case

Gray residents may have lost their annexation case, but county commissioners in the 7th District stand behind their position that property owners should have the choice to remain outside the City of Johnson City limits.
Following 19 meetings with residents, Commissioners Roger Nave, Mark Larkey and Mike Ford say they have accepted the judge’s ruling.
“We don’t plan to schedule another meeting with residents unless talk of additional annexations begin,” Nave said. “If so, we would take it from there and discuss Johnson City’s intentions and timeline.”
In an order filed Jan. 9, U.S. District Judge Leon Jordan granted motions by the State of Tennessee and the City of Johnson City to dismiss the civil action filed by a group of Gray residents who challenged the state annexation statute and requested the annexation of property thus far be declared null and void.
Residents requested the court declare the state annexation code unconstitutionally vague, but Jordan said there is nothing vague or ambiguous about the statute.
Residents also alleged the burdens of proof in the statute are materially different and irreconcilable. But, according to Jordan, anyone challenging an annexation can determine the burden of proof by learning whether the territory is within an approved urban growth boundary or within a county that is without an approved growth plan.
Jordan also refused a trial by jury in the action challenging an annexation, saying, “a jury trial does not apply to suits decided by state courts; it relates only to trials in federal courts.”