- Real Estate
- Paris Flash
A man who complained to the Paris City Council on Monday night that he and his neighbors near Cox Field Airport were annexed into the city 15 years ago by “greedy politicians” laid down an ultimatum.
“If you follow the annexation policy you have in place, you will disannex us for failing to provide full services that the rest of Paris enjoys,” argued Charles Keys of 6420 FM 1508 (Airport Road), speaking for himself and 22 others who own property in the vicinity of Cox Field Airport.
“However, if you don’t, I want to go on record requesting that we go to the top of the priority list for full services when you start spending that $45 million (bond issue) for infrastructure,” he said.
Not that Keys thought that was likely.
“If I was on the council, I’d kick us out of the city and put that four or five million dollars somewhere else,” he said.
Mayor AJ Hashmi surprised the audience by pledging that the council would do just that.
“I’m not in favor of this disannexation,” the mayor said.
“However, I would like to say that at the earliest, facilities need to be made available to the residents of this area, whatever cost may be involved. These people need to be provided service.”
Mayor Pro-Tem John Wright said: “I fully agree. If they’re going to be taxed as citizens, they should get the services for their property, and I would encourage it to be done as quickly as possible.”
Where will the money come from?
Hashmi said the $45 million bond issue approved by voters on May 11 was to replace the city’s aging water and sewer lines, but noted that the words on the ballot were ”to replace or extend” the lines.
“The bond language would allow it,” he said.
Hashmi reasoned that the cost — an average of about $100,000 for each of 49 identified properties – is justified because full water and sewer would also be extended to the airport itself, which is surrounded by acreage considered ripe for both commercial and residential development.
The mayor asked Community Development Director Shawn Napier if bringing water and sewer to Cox Field might make the airport more attractive for development.
“Yes, sir. Anytime you install infrastructure, that is a definite benefit, to know those services would be available,” Napier said. “In advertising for airport future potential development, saying that you had water and sewer available would be a big help.”
City voters on May 11 approved a $45 million bond issue to replace the worst of the city’s aging water and sewer lines. The council has sold only the first $35 million.
Napier estimated it would cost about $5 million to extend water and sewer lines four miles from the Morningside Addition on Loop 286 to the airport.
“We have identified all the residents along the route that are currently in the city. We believe there are a total of 49 in this area that could potentially benefit from that,” Napier said.
“How long would it take to implement it?” Hashmi asked.
“Designing would probably take no more than two to three months,” Napier replied.
“And construction?” Hashmi asked.
“Probably about twice that long,” Napier said.
Months ago, the council tabled the petition of Boyd and Deborah Hudgens, who live at 6445 Airport Road, for disannexation. Since then, the council adopted a tougher, more restrictive annexation and disannexation policy.
The Hudgens were back on the agenda for Monday night, along with two other requests — from Clint Spencer and from David and Brenda Denison, both of whom own undeveloped properties off Smallwood Road and whose cases also had been on the back burner for months.
On Sept. 6, the city received 22 more disannexation requests from property owners in the vicinity of the airport.
In addition to Hashmi and Wright, three other council members — councilman Aaron Jenkins and councilwomen Sue Lancaster and Cleonne Drake — heard the arguments. Dr. Richard Grossnickle and Matt Frierson recused themselves.
The council unanimously indicated its willingness to disannex Spencer’s land, since he approached the council 10 months ago, before the new policy, and because his situation was identical to another disannexation the council approved last year.
The council unanimously agreed Spencer’s case was unique and that his tract could be disannexed without impacting any other property.
“Although the staff preference would be not to disannex, we are also somewhat ambivalent about it,” City Manager John Godwin said.
“It is unique, and it’s the end of the street but is not part of the (Wildwood) subdivision,” he added.
“Myself, personally, I’m in favor of allowing this disannexation,” Drake agreed. “He’s been waiting a long time, and he came before the council before we came up with an ordinance, and since it does not affect that subdivision, my recommendation on this one is to allow it,”
Other council members quickly concurred, and Godwin said an ordinance for the disannexation of Spencer’s property will be drawn up. After two public hearings, the council can finalize the disannexation.
Godwin said disannexing the nearby Denison property would disconnect an adjacent property from the rest of the city, and disannexation also was objectionable because it was part of the subdivision.
The Hudgens property, if annexed alone, would have created a hole in the city limits and therefore was ineligible for disannexation, the city manager said.
“It appears even with the (22) additional requests, there remains the possibility of islands and/or holes being created, as well as very irregular boundaries,” Godwin said.
“It now becomes much more complicated. You’d have some potential inconsistencies if you did some and not others, and there are several combinations over here on the rirght or on the east side that can disconnect other properties, especially the airport itself,” he said.
“These basically go back to the very reason Texas cities are permitted annexation authority,” the manager added, “to protect their borders and control the land uses in and close to them.”
The council agreed.
“If we disannex some and we didn’t some, it’s just going to be a nightmare for police and fire and EMS as to who responds, who doesn’t respond,” Drake said.
“Plus, with the police and sheriff’s department, who has jurisdiction? I like the plan Shawn came up with (to supply water and sewer to the area), and I agree that we need to go full speed,” she said.
In Keys’ animated objection to the council, he said: “No offense to the present council, but if you take something from someone and have no use for it, have no plans for it, are not going to pay for it, and take it just because you can, that is greed.”
In 1999, property owners were annexed against their will, he said, and were promised that the city would immediately begin construction of water and waste water facilities. After 14 years, that still hasn’t happened, he said.
“The only difference was, after we were annexed we no longer saw the green city limits sign, and each November we got two more tax bills. When we flushed our toilets or turned on our faucets, we got the same services we had before we were annexed,” Keys said.
Realtor Jim Bell told the council he had difficulty selling a home on Old Clarksville Road, west of the airport, because it had “no cable TV, no TV, no Internet.”
The house has been in the city for many years, Bell said, and the city has a contract with Suddenlink, “and wherever city limits go, they go — but they are not following that.”
Attorney Josh Northam, who said he was approached by the Hudgens and others in the community, said they were frustrated because they had been unable to get answers.
“When you presented the plan here for the sewer and water lines, there were whispers all around that this was the first they had heard of it,” Northam said.
“You’ve told them tonight you’re going to spend $5 million on this project to bring sewer and water to them, and I just hope you continue to communicate with them, so they do feel like they’re a part of the city and that the taxes they’re paying will give them as much as it does everyone else.”
Hashmi replied: “We have bond money available to use for this, although as much as possible would be used to fund the replacement work.”
The mayor instructed the city manager to place on the agenda as quickly as possible the proposal to extend water and sewer service from Morningside east to the airport, using money from the bond issue.
By Charles Richards, eParisExtra