City would do well to study issues of 1996 annexation
Batesville city officials considering annexation during today’s meeting would do well to learn from the last time the city launched the process.
That was in 1996 and the only person then sitting at the board table who is still there is assistant City Attorney Colmon Mitchell. By the time the annexation was approved in 2000, Aldermen Bill Dugger had also come to the table.
The 1996 annexation project included a large area east of I-55. Too large, as it turned out. After initially receiving approval by Judge Percy Lynchard in Chancery Court, the decision was appealed to the State Supreme Court by a Committee Opposed to Annexation (COA) who hired Oxford attorney Guy Gillespie.
The Supreme Court ruled in March, 2000, agreeing with the COA that the area targeted to be annexed into city limits was, indeed, too large. The court allowed the area north of Highway 6 and east of I-55 to an east corporate boundary that approximately follows Mill Cross and Harmon Roads. The then-new north boundary approved by the Supreme Court decision was Bethlehem Road.
The Supreme Court then excluded a targeted area east of Mill Cross/Harmon that would have extended almost to Hotophia Creek and south to Highway 6.
In its decision, the Supreme Court agreed with the city and Chancellor Lynchard that an area targeted east of I-55 and south of Highway 6 should be included, but it also agreed with the COA that the plan approved in Chancery Court was too ambitious.
Today’s present southeast city boundaries also reflect the 2000 Supreme Court ruling: east to a north/south line as if extended from Mill Cross/Harmon Roads and south to include Pine Lodge Road, almost to the Eureka Road.
However, the Supreme Court agreed with the COA that an area east of there all the way past Good Hope Road and south to Trantham Road was too ambitious.
Thus have stood Batesville’s corporate limits since 2000.
Annexation plans that will be discussed by the city today are nowhere near as ambitious, but during their November 15 meeting, city officials agreed to reconsider the area east of Mills Cross and north and south of Brewer Road to Bethlehem Road.
The criteria that will ultimately determine what gets annexed is not certain, but language from the 2000 decision could give us an idea.
“… We are left with real doubts that Batesville will extend all of its municipal services to the residents of the proposed annexation within a reasonable time,” Justice Bill Waller wrote for the majority in the 2000 ruling.
A reasonable time?
“… there is the distinct possibility that residents in the more remote areas will not receive such services within the first five years,” Justice Waller’s decision states.
“‘What will be the yardstick: No one knows,’” Justice Waller continued, quoting a precedent from a Vicksburg annexation case. ‘“Reasonable” is now determined by the length of the chancellor’s nose, or foot, if you prefer.’”