Annexation proves to be contentious council topic

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Whitehouse held its second public hearing on proposed annexation and zoning Tuesday, Nov. 28. Many local residents who would be affected by the annexation attended the hearing. Most of those present chose to speak to the council and voiced a variety of concerns regarding the proposed annexation.

“I really do appreciate all of you coming out,” stated David Roquemore as he opened the public hearing. “It’s great to have input.”

Many of those speaking to the council included land owners with current agricultural exemptions, home owners with recently purchased septic systems and several who stated they had specifically bought land outside city limits “for a reason.”

Several expressed a belief that the city’s proposed annexation was simply a land grab in order to increase tax rolls.

While the council did not take any action at the hearing, there were certain suggestions made.

For the home owners with septic systems concerned about being forced to tap into city sewer at their own expense, it was recommended that the city could possibly look into grandfathering in those specific aerobic systems.

“However, we would maintain that you would have to be compliant with TCEQ [Texas Commission on Environmental Quality] and EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] regulations,” city manager Aaron Smith stated. “We want to make sure it does not fall into disrepair and we’d want to make sure it’s not a nuisance. In that situation, the council could stipulate and say at that point you’d need to tap in [to city sewer].”

“We are required by law to offer any owner that has an ag [agricultural] exemption what’s called a development agreement,” said city attorney Blake Armstrong. “The agreement essentially states that for a period of 10 years, as long as the property is continued to be used for ag purposes, that we cannot annex the property.”

“This isn’t about money,” Smith said in response to the many comments about the city simply wanting to increase tax rolls. “This is about building a community that matches the desires that were set up in the comp plan in 2005 for this community to grow and expand. It takes roughly seven to ten years to even break even when you talk about the utilities that you have to bring in.”

After the public hearing closed, the council elected David Roquemore mayor pro tem and approved the charter amendments which were voted on in the November election.

Following the public hearings, the city drafted a document titled, “Benefits of Living in the City.” Whitehouse also updated a frequently asked questions document Nov.30. Both documents can be found at www.whitehousetx.org at the bottom of the home page.

The Whitehouse city council will meet Tuesday, Dec. 19, at which time the ordinance for proposed annexation will be addressed and action taken.

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