Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Judges void 182 'forced' Knoxville annexations dating back years

Knox County judges have voided 182 so-called forced annexation efforts by the City of Knoxville that homeowners challenged in lawsuits, many of them dating back more than a decade ago.

The move was expected and comes after the state Legislature last year approved new law that prevents cities from annexing new areas without residents living in the targeted areas approving them move.

The new law, however, does not affect existing properties that were annexed and went through the legislative process.

“We’re not losing anything that was there, but they will now not become part of the city,” said Knoxville spokesman Jesse Mayshark. “The city won’t be getting future revenues from them that we would have, had they become part of the city.”

The court orders were signed during the past month by the county’s three chancellors, according to officials with Citizens for Home Rule, Inc., which filed the lawsuits on behalf of the residents.

“It is a great day for private property owners’ rights and a great day for liberty in Tennessee,” said John Avery Emison, the organization’s president. “We’ve worked against forced annexation for many years and winning all 182 cases in one fell swoop says a lot about the value of persistence. The Courts have ruled that all those ordinances are ‘invalid and void as a matter of law.’”

Forced annexations were prevalent during the 16 years Victor Ashe served as Knoxville’s mayor. They were less common during under his predecessor Bill Haslam and non-existent under current Mayor Madeline Rogero.

“A few of the cases originated during Mayor Bill Haslam’s term of office,” Emison said. “It feels really great for the courts to agree that we were right all along and mayors Ashe and Haslam were wrong all along,” Emison said. “The City has agreed to pay the court costs and CHR will get all its filing fees back.”

When asked about the potential loss of revenue to the city’s coffers, Mayshark said “no one ever tried to estimate how much money we’re talking about.”

“I think it’s fair to say there was substantial, future revenue there, but I don’t know how much,” he said.

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