Right2Vote – FAQs
This area covers Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) related to FORCED ANNEXATION and right to vote.
Q: What is the mission of Right2VoteTN?
A: Right2VoteTN is a coalition of groups, organizations and individuals across the State of Tennessee opposed to the state’s current laws on FORCED ANNEXATION. We believe citizens should have the “Right to Vote” on an issue so fundamental to private property rights.
Q: What is FORCED ANNEXATION?
A: Forced annexation is when a city, working within the Urban Grown Boundaries (UGBs) it agreed to with other cities within the county and with no voter input, annexes property within its designated Urban Grown Plan (UGP) into the city through a simple city ordinance. Neither businesses nor residents have a say in the annexation of their property under the current law.
Q: What is an Urban Growth Boundary or Plan?
A: Cities within a county get together and divvy up land of private property owners into what they consider their natural right to expand. Property owners are not directly involved in this process, although citizens get to provide input into two planning meetings open to the public about once every 20 years when plans are formulated. Based on current law, the largest city in an area wins if two cities are in contention over a specific piece of property. There are other requirements to prevent so-called “monstrosity” annexations – where a city cherry picks selected properties, like a narrow strip of businesses but not adjacent residences – or annexations for just for the purpose of generating increased revenues. However, most cities ignore these laws. Once ALL cities agree, the plans are formalized and the cities annex properties per the agreement. Cities can choose to re-open the planning process at any time, as long as all parties agree. The fewer the cities in a county, the easier to re-open the plan.
Q: How did Urban Growth Plans (UGPs) originate?
A: Forced annexation has been a policy in Tennessee for nearly 60 years. Since 1955, municipalities in Tennessee could annex adjacent areas by referendum or by ordinance. Between 1955 and 1968, there were only 18 annexations through referendum and 716 through ordinance. In 1974, the legislature responded to concerns from suburban and county interests by passing Public Chapter 753, which required a municipal plan of services for the first time and placed the burden of proving an annexation’s reasonableness on the municipality instead of the plaintiff (property owner). In 1979, the legislature further changed the law by allowing plaintiffs to request jury trials in cases where annexations by ordinance were taken to court. Naturally, juries tended to decide in favor of plaintiffs/property owners. In effect, the laws then in place virtually guaranteed legal challenges to annexations by ordinance. City interests didn’t like this, so they lobbied for changes to the law, and in 1998 they got them with the passage of Chapter 1101.
In the law, cities within a county must agree on their respective Urban Growth Boundaries (UGBs), within which they can systematically annex properties. The law requires the planning boards that establish UGBs to have two public meetings, where citizens can voice their opinions, opposition or support, but citizen input is not binding on the planners. While annexation options through ordinance and referendum both remained, the strong focus on urban and regional planning in the law – and the removal of the burden of proof from the municipality when challenged in court – virtually assured all future annexations would be through city ordinance. County commissions retained the right to disapprove such annexations, but voters in the affected areas did not – and still do not – have the opportunity to consent or disapprove annexations.
Urban Growth Plans (UGPs) were introduced, partly as a byproduct of the international Agenda 21 initiative developed by the United Nations and implemented across Tennessee. UN policy outlined in Agenda 21 favors governments managing property rights over private citizens. The United States is the only country in the world where private property rights are written into our Constitution. Agenda 21 promotes regional over local planning and top-down restrictions on uses of private property (land), with UGPs a tool that subtly subverts these rights.
Last year, Republicans in the legislature passed a resolution opposing Agenda 21. We believe the passage of HR 475 and SR 279 will be two key measuring tools that will demonstrate if the majority believes in that resolution or it was just empty political posturing.
Q: What is Tennessee Municipal League (TML)?
A: TML describes itself as a voluntary, cooperative organization established by the cities and towns of the state for mutual assistance and improvement. It is funded through its insurance to cities across Tennessee, via the TML Risk Management Pool, and through membership fees, which are both paid through city taxpayer dollars. TML is one of the largest lobbying groups in the state. The way we see it, TML uses its lobbing power from city taxpayer dollars to infringe upon the private property rights of Tennessee’s suburban and rural residents and businesses. Who represents suburban and rural property owners? And is it not a conflict of interest for a city insurer to be also the primary lobbyist for cities within the state?
Q: I am a farmer and my land is part of a greenbelt. Am I safe from annexation and increased city property taxes?
A: This protection may soon be watered down at the state level. In 2009 the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) recommended changes to the four-decade-long protection from significant increases in property taxes offered to active farm properties within a designated greenbelt. Such changes may force the sale of land by some farmers for development. Right2VoteTN is pro-agriculture and would like to preserve natural resources in our communities for future generations. Most cities have no agricultural provisions in their charters and often include limitations on livestock and poultry in their codes.
Q. Where can I find more information on this initiative?
A. To learn more and stay informed. Each location has different information:
– Please visit our website: http://Right2VoteTN.org
– “Like Us” on Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/Right2VoteTN
– “Follow-Us” on Twitter : https://www.twitter.com/Right2VoteTN
Sources: Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR), “Implementation of Tennessee’s Growth Policy Act: The History of Public Chapter 1101 and the Early Stages of its Implementation,” March 1999; and “Greenbelt Revisited, A TACIR Staff Report,” February 2009.