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Not annexing properties ignores safety risks and is arbitrary and capricious

At its past two meetings, the city council has made conflicting decisions about whether to annex properties that have become surrounded by the corporate limits of the city of Decatur.  Specifically, at the last two meetings the city council has had 21 agenda items associated with such annexations and depending on whether the property owners publicly objected or not, made different decisions.  Property owners who vocally objected to annexation at the meetings were less likely to be annexed than those that did not, even though the reasons individuals would object to annexation did not change.  Of the 21 agenda items associated with annexations 19 were approved and 2 were rejected.   

The city council voted 6-1 to not annex properties on W. Grove Rd. after one property owner indicated a feeling of disgust with annexation.  The properties are surrounded by Red Tail Run Golf Course. The city council voted 4-3 not to annex lots on W. Sunset Ave.  The W. Sunset Ave. lots are surrounded by the the west end neighborhood to their north and the Decatur Park District’s bike path to their south.  Annexations did take place throughout the city on streets such as W. Bowshier, W. Catherine, Corman, Danny, Desert Inn, W. Division, Faries Parkway, Ferris, Haines Hill, Hulett, W. Marietta, N. Moffet, Solar, South Shores, N. Westlawn, 37th St. and 44th St.


Since 2020, the city of Decatur has annexed hundreds of properties.  The vast majority of property owners have been outraged and disgusted, for as a generalization, annexation brings with it more taxes with limited gains in service.  For example, if you don’t currently have sanitary sewers or use city water, you won’t see benefits on a day-to-day basis, only costs. 

The decision not to annex some surrounded properties, but not others is a direct contradiction to the city council’s adopted policy from March 16, 2020 that indicates that properties surrounded by the city’s corporate boundary or that have a water service agreement and are contiguous with the City’s corporate boundary will be annexed.  By adopting this policy, city council members are shielded from being accused of favoritism in its decision making.  On the other hand, when the council goes against its approved policy, the council should correctly be criticized for being arbitrary and capricious in its decision making.  To be clear, the same arguments used against annexation in the two aforementioned cases were the same arguments used by owners of hundreds of other properties over the past four years.  Yet, these two annexations were not approved.


The decision not to annex these properties means that county laws apply to those properties including any differences in leaf burning, use of fireworks, shooting of firearms and archery, and the keeping of exotic animals and livestock.  For example, if a person wanted to burn their leaves, as long as it was allowed by the county and was on the county portion of their property, they would be able to do so even though the consequences of leaf burning including fire hazards and smoke hazards are inherited by surrounding neighbors and users of the bike path and golf course.  Said another way, the city council continues to expose users of the Decatur Park District’s bike trail, west end neighbors, and the Red Tail Run Golf course to unnecessary risks.  For example, before the leaf burning ban, the city received multiple complaints from residents for breathing issues associated with leaf burning and even after the ban, the Decatur Fire Department has responded to structure fires due to leaf burning that took place too close to structures.  Thus, it is unclear why members of the city council would unnecessarily create inconsistencies in leaf burning practices when properties are surrounded by the corporate limits of the city.  Furthermore, for those residents with breathing problems, the city council has affirmed that residents have limited recourse if negatively impacted by leaf burning as the smoke does not know municipal boundaries.


By failing to annex properties in a manner consistent with city council policy, the hundreds of property owners that have been annexed since 2020 should rightfully be upset.  By failing to annex properties contrary to city council policy, residents who live near county properties are right to wonder, why they cannot burn leaves, shoot fireworks, keep exotic animals and livestock in the same manner as their neighbors across the street can.  Thus, it would not surprise me if recently annexed property owners will now seek deannexation and leave the city of Decatur.  After all, they simply need to use the same arguments used by the property owners on W. Sunset Ave. and W. Grove Rd. and they will likely have at least 4 sympathetic ears on the council.    

Horn for Decatur
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