As cities spread, voters in these rural counties will decide rules on annexation

Voters in Johnson, Parker, Wise and Palo Pinto counties will decide on propositions that will make it more difficult for cities to annex property.
Voters in Johnson, Parker, Wise and Palo Pinto counties will decide on propositions that will make it more difficult for cities to annex property. Courtesy

When Peggie Jones moved to her five acres in the 1980s, she wanted to be away from cities with their rules and regulations.

Jones, 58, is fighting to keep her way of life as urban sprawl is taking over Johnson County.

“We don’t want to be in the city,” she said. “We bought in a rural area for a reason because that is the life we wanted.”

Jones and others formed the group Stop Forced Annexation and collected enough signatures proposition on Tuesday’s ballot asking voters if Johnson County should become a Tier 2 county, meaning that cities will have to call elections if they want to annex land.

Voters in Parker, Wise, and Palo Pinto counties will also decide on the Tier 2 status.

Jones said she and her neighbors are happy with their services and don’t want to pay the higher taxes and follow code enforcement and other regulations that come with being a city resident.

Joshua city manager Josh Jones said he empathizes with the residents who want their rural way of life, but the city is now part of the North Texas Council of Governments planning area, which means there are different standards for things such as stormwater planning.

The Chisholm Trail Parkway is also driving people from the Metroplex southward, and the number of single-family homes doubled over the past year, Jones said.

Joshua doesn’t have much available land because it is between its larger neighbors, Burleson and Cleburne, but Jones said annexation has been a tool for cities to control the growth and development.

“We don’t want an RV park next to a pig farm next to a housing development,” he said.

County judge Roger Harmon said he believes the measure will pass based on the feedback he has gotten.

“I think a lot of people are in favor of this,” he said.

Harmon said he can see both sides of the issue as people don’t want to be annexed and pay higher property taxes.

On the other hand, as more subdivisions are built near cities, more people use city services and don’t pay taxes for them, he said.

But Linda Boyd, who raises horses on 30 acres near Peggie Jones’ home, said she doesn’t want the government to dictate what she can do with her property.

Her husband has his boat repair business on their land.

“I don’t want someone to regulate me. I don’t want the codes and all of that. I don’t care what my neighbors do,” Boyd said.

Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain said growth in his city has taken off since the Chisholm Trail Parkway opened in 2014. The city expanded its boundaries to the west, anticipating the growth.

However, Cain said he is a big advocate of property rights and thinks the annexation legislation should be revisited.

“The Chisholm Trail Parkway is a game-changer for us,” he said.“Many things have changed in Johnson County. We are no longer the sleepy little county south of the Metroplex.”

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