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Leaders unsure of joint position on annexation

City and county leaders are at odds over whether legislators should be approached separately regarding annexation issues, or whether a united front would be more effective.
The Jan. 29 meeting of the new Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, a revised City-County Liaison Committee, was attended by representatives of the city and county school boards, both commission bodies, the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen and the Washington County Economic Development Council.
Members received a copy of a report on municipal boundary changes and comprehensive growth plans that was issued the day before by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.
According to TACIR Executive Director Lynnisse Roehrich-Patrick, the report was prepared in response to Public Chapter 707, Acts of 2014, which dramatically changed annexation law in Tennessee by eliminating annexation without consent.
The report explains the annexation process going forward — a process that will require annexing cities to obtain written consent from owners or hold a referendum — and includes TACIR’s recommendations to address several key issues concerning municipal boundary changes and growth planning policies.
While Intergovernmental Affairs members agreed they would need more time to study the report, Commissioner Joe Grandy suggested a more expedient process.
“Rather than comment on TACIR’s opinion, we should just tell the legislators what we want,” he said.
Johnson City Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin said he thought that might be a little premature, but Grandy reminded him the county mayor is ready to reconvene the 1101 Coordinating Committee, which developed the last growth plan for the county in 1998.
During the January meetings of the Commercial, Industrial and Agricultural Committee and the Zoning Administrator’s Oversight Committee, Mayor Dan Eldridge discussed the need for the county to revisit the plan and ensure leaders in Jonesborough and Johnson City are on the same page as far as efforts to manage and encourage growth.
“I think it should be discussed in this body first,” Van Brocklin said.
City Commissioner Jenny Brock agreed and suggested choosing three top priorities to address. She said a good discussion was held during a recent meeting with state legislators and city commissioners.
Considering the different effects annexation has on a municipality versus a county, Van Brocklin proposed each body address the legislature separately.
“That’s what we have been doing, but I wonder if we’re sending mixed messages that would make legislators throw up their hands,” Grandy said. “I think we may be surprised by the number of things we agree on.”
Van Brocklin said the key points, in his opinion, will be those on which the bodies do not agree.
Committee members decided to discuss the report with their respective boards and meet again for more discussion.
Two follow-up meetings were scheduled to further discuss the TACIR recommendations. A joint called meeting of the CIA and Zoning Administrator’s Oversight committees was scheduled for Feb. 10, and a called meeting of the Intergovernmental Affairs Committee will be held Thursday, Feb. 12, at 5:30 p.m. in the Chester Inn Boardroom of the International Storytelling Center.