Terrell Annexation sign 2

KAUFMAN, Texas — The first hearing for a temporary restraining order granted to land and business owners who are opposed to the City of Terrell’s recent attempt at annexation began today and will reconvene tomorrow morning at the courthouse.

Kaufman County Court at Law Judge # 2, Bobby Rich began the proceedings Thursday afternoon in a courtroom filled to capacity with plaintiff’s and their neighbors and other concerned landowners and some city staff.

Prior to the hearing, the city of Terrell sent a statement to local media that read, in part,

“The City’s primary annexation goal in this case was to protect the major entryway corridors from long-term negative commercial development. Having seen the negative effects of no annexation and no City zoning at the intersection of Spur 557 and US80 for many years, the City’s intent was simple and clear: annex minimum strips along the four major TxDOT entrances to Terrell and apply zoning in hopes of preventing new unsavory commercial businesses from locating and creating a negative impact on the City and those within our entryway areas. Entryway management is a long-standing municipal function across the State of Texas. It is neither harmful nor punitive to the impacted landowners. On the contrary, annexation fully allows the continuation of almost every existing use, including residential and agricultural. However, after annexation, new development is subject to requirements of zoning and building quality that can enhance the overall value of the corridor and prevent public health and safety concerns.”

“The City also intended to pass measures that went above and beyond minimum requirements in the process for adding the newly annexed landowners to the City. These measures are now blocked for all landowners, not just the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs blocked Resolution No. 938, which would have guaranteed building owners in the newly annexed areas property tax relief (first year automatically not on the tax rolls, and then two years of rebates of all City property taxes). The annexation ordinances blocked by the plaintiffs would have provided three years of agricultural exemption from annexation for agricultural property owners. Finally, the plaintiffs blocked an ordinance change that would have allowed the continuation of a current fireworks stand for three additional years,” the statement continues.

“We are confident that the court review of this case will end with a clear-cut, fair, and logical process for the City to follow to meet our original goals to protect and enhance the City’s entryways to Terrell through annexation,” the statement concluded.

Elizabeth Alvarez, an attorney representing the plaintiff’s responded to the city’s remarks.

“The response of the City of Terrell to TRO and upcoming Temporary Injunction Hearing is remarkably cavalier and disrespectful to their citizens, and to those they hope to make their citizens,” Alvarez tells inForney.com

“In essence their response to the idea that they might be attempting an illegal annexation and power grab is “we are doing you all ungrateful people a favor, so why aren’t you happy about it? Why do you care how we did it?” ”, Alavarez said.

Alvarez is as an attorney for Guest & Gray, the firm hired by over 70 landowners to fight the proposed annexation. Guest & Gray has previously defeated the city of Mesquite’s attempt to annex parts of Kaufman County in December 2017.

“My clients are especially offended by the suggestion that a City who seems to have no problem with the myriad of illegal activities that take place within its borders, must protect my clients from the health and safety risks they pose to themselves,” Alvarez said.

Despite having two attorneys on staff, the City of Terrell has hired Richard Brown and Kent Hofmeister, both partners of Brown & Hofmeister, L.L.P. a Dallas based law firm. The city of Mesquite used the same attorney’s in their failed plan to annex in Kaufman county in late 2017.

According to invoices obtained by inForney.com, Brown & Hofmeister, L.L.P. invoiced the city of Mesquite for over $80,000 in legal fees in just 6 weeks in 2017 and 2018 for their work. This total does not include invoices the attorney’s charged for their time in court. Those fees and invoices were deemed not public record by an April 2018 ruling by the Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, and have never been released.

Today the judge heard from numerous plaintiffs who testified on how they were notified of the possible annexations and details about the maps distributed by the city and the two public hearings that were held.

Judge Rich recessed the court at approximately 4:45 this afternoon. The hearing will continue tomorrow morning at 9AM.

This is a developing story.

Complete statement from the City of Terrell, issued September 24, 2019:

"The annexations addressed in the City of Terrell's August Public Hearings (areas along IH20, US80, SH34, and SH205), are now a matter pending with Kaufman County Court at Law #2. These 1,000-foot strip annexations are the minimum width allowed under State Law and represent the City of Terrell’s effort to take a leadership position on growth by encouraging value among our major gateways.

The City understands that the primary complaint made to the court against Terrell seems to be that the City held public hearings on land outside the City’s current Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ). Texas cities may annex within their ETJ and each annexation automatically creates new ETJ. The purpose of the City’s public hearings was to clearly communicate the City’s full annexation intentions in these major roadway corridors. Holding hearings regarding land not in our ETJ was not only lawful, it was the right thing to do because it fully communicated the City’s intentions.

The City’s primary annexation goal in this case was to protect the major entryway corridors from long-term negative commercial development. Having seen the negative effects of no annexation and no City zoning at the intersection of Spur 557 and US80 for many years, the City’s intent was simple and clear: annex minimum strips along the four major TxDOT entrances to Terrell and apply zoning in hopes of preventing new unsavory commercial businesses from locating and creating a negative impact on the City and those within our entryway areas. Entryway management is a long-standing municipal function across the State of Texas. It is neither harmful nor punitive to the impacted landowners. On the contrary, annexation fully allows the continuation of almost every existing use, including residential and agricultural. However, after annexation, new development is subject to requirements of zoning and building quality that can enhance the overall value of the corridor and prevent public health and safety concerns.

By publishing maps of our full annexation intent, we enhanced and improved the quality of our communications to landowners by showing the public the full series of the sequential annexation steps. State law requires no particular “resting” period between sequential annexations. So, whether they may occur off-set by 5 months, 5 weeks, or 5 minutes, there is no State Law on this speed issue. On the other hand, there is a State law that says cities may not divide up annexations to avoid or escape certain requirements. By showing the current series of annexations in one round of hearings, we showed that our series of annexations did not trigger these additional requirements. Again, Terrell’s approach exceeded communication requirements by clearly communicating our successive annexation steps.

The City also intended to pass measures that went above and beyond minimum requirements in the process for adding the newly annexed landowners to the City. These measures are now blocked for all landowners, not just the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs blocked Resolution No. 938,

which would have guaranteed building owners in the newly annexed areas property tax relief (first year automatically not on the tax rolls, and then two years of rebates of all City property taxes). The annexation ordinances blocked by the plaintiffs would have provided three years of agricultural exemption from annexation for agricultural property owners. Finally, the plaintiffs blocked an ordinance change that would have allowed the continuation of a current fireworks stand for three additional years. Of 153 total parcels of land impacted by annexations, twenty-nine property owners impacted by annexation joined the lawsuit. Further, eight plaintiffs are outside the areas being considered for annexation.

We are confident that the court review of this case will end with a clear-cut, fair, and logical process for the City to follow to meet our original goals to protect and enhance the City’s entryways to Terrell through annexation."