The move to annex two tracts of land into Midlothian follows more than 3-years of controversy and careful planning and looks to be complete – for now.
The last of two new resident workshops was held last week at the Midlothian Conference Center, with 15 department heads and staff on hand to answer any and all questions.
“We sent postcards to every newly annexed resident along with an information packet about these two meeting,” said Midlothian City Manager, Don Hastings. “I’m pleased to say it looks like we have a good crowd at this meeting.”
Thursday’s meeting was held in the evening and while the December workshop had been held in the morning.
“We had all our department heads and a number of city staff here to answer questions,” said Hastings. “It’s rare to get all city officials in one room like this. I dare say if you have a question about city government or city services we can put you with the person who can provide the answers.”
Hastings said the city would continue to work to offer information on annexation to any resident.
“Our city council has stressed the need for the city to be completely open throughout the entire annexation process,” said Hastings. “City hall can sometimes seem like a big maze and we want to dispel their notion.”
Becoming a resident of the City of Midlothian does have its benefits.
“We have heard a lot from those opposing annexation and we want people to understand – like we have said all along — they get something out of this, too,” said Hastings. “Taxes are paid to provide services to all Midlothian residents.
“We also know there are people out there, while not being vocal, saw that it was inevitable that they would be annexed,” he added. “We want people to know what they are getting for their money.”
Charlie Odgers of Allen Lane said he was annexed and has had no problems with the process.
“I think getting an additional police presence is worth it to me,” said Odgers. “I also like the idea of zoning to protect property values. I don’t want a mobile home going up next to me.”
Odgers said being annexed was something he saw coming years ago.
“This process have been inevitable since we moved out here,” Odgers said. “Midlothian is growing. And as far as new taxes, I just want to make sure the city gives me my money’s worth.”
The city has even formed an annexation transition team made up of people in the annexed area who are there to help answer questions for newly annexed residents and tell the city the concerns of newly annexed residents.
The annexation transition team is made up of Wayne Shuffield, Dennis Smart, Jason Kyle and Randy Smith.
“I was not for annexation and I had rather that I hadn’t been annexed,” said Dennis Smart, who served on RCAA in their fight against annexation. “I do feel like we are at the point where we have been annexed and until we get de-annexed we need to work with the city.”
Smart has been a businessman in Midlothian since 1984.
“I remember when this town was 2,500 people,” said Smart. “A lot of things have changed. I just want to make sure every dollar I pay in taxes is spent wisely and properly.”
Smart said he has learned a lot about his hometown in the process.
“We really do have people at City Hall who know their job and want to serve the community,” said Smart. “As liaison between the city and newly annexed residents I hope people will go to City Hall and ask questions, or come to me and I’ll do what I can.”
Jason Kyle is also a local businessman who was caught up in annexation.
“Don (Hastings) approached me about serving and since I work with the Downtown Business Association, I told him I would be glad to,” said Kyle. “I have talked with a number of city representatives and newly annexed residents about this process and feel very familiar with both side of the argument.”
Kyle, too, urged newly annexed residents to contact him if they have questions about annexation or new city services.
The annexation controversy started in November 2005 when Midlothian announced intentions to annex two unincorporated “donut holes.” The tracts contested included McAda, Daisy, Kirk and Clinton streets just south of FM 1387 and a larger tract south of town that includes Starwashed, Clearview, Belmont, Allen, Apple and King Arthur streets.
The two tracts total about 1,240 acres and more than 500 homes.
In January 2006 the city sent out letters to property owners in the two tracts saying they would be annexed.
RCAA (Rural Citizens Against Annexation) formed and hosted its first formal meeting at the Midlothian Civic Center in August 2006. The group elected officers and solicited donations to fight annexation.
On Sept. 12 and 26, 2006 the city held public hearings at Midlothian Bible Church and Baxter Elementary School respectively and more than 150 people voiced their questions and concerns to the city.
With the city and annexation foes unable to reach consensus, the issue was turned over to arbitration in November 2007.
A Dallas judge ruled Midlothian’s basic service plan met the state’s requirement for residents in the two tracts set for annexation. The ruling — the first in the state to fully test an annexation process enacted by the Legislature in 1999 – was heralded as a victory by city leaders and as a confusing defeat for RCAA.
City officials offered the annexation areas an “enhanced” service plan that included parks, improved roads and fire protection, streetlights and waving fees for city services. Annexed areas would have been at the top of the list for these improvements under the city’s enhanced service plan.
Midlothian adopted a plan to annex the areas referred to as Tracts A and B citing the fact that Tracts A and B are located relatively close to the city center and are entirely enclosed by city jurisdiction. The tracts have repeatedly been called “donut holes” and are the result of previous city councils deciding not to confront annexation.
Midlothian’s rural appeal has attracted thousands of residents to town over the past five years. Midlothian had a city population of roughly 7,000 people in 2001 and the city now has an estimated 14,500 residents.
City officials have said newly annexed residents will see their tax rate go from $1.83 per $1,000 of assessed value to $2.41 per $1,000.
Hastings said a study by the city indicates the city will see its revenue increase by $385,000 in ad valorem taxes. Midlothian has a city budget of $15.1 million for 2008-09.