Saltillo looks to scale back annexation plan

·3 min read

Jul. 21—SALTILLO — More than seven months after aldermen voted to pursue adding 1,400 acres to the Saltillo city limits, the plans have still not been formally filed in chancery court.

The board, which features three new aldermen, is now looking to limit the scope of the annexation before pushing forward.

"We anticipate a second amended ordinance on annexation to be brought before the board at their first meeting in August," city attorney Chris Evans said.

During their Tuesday night called special meeting, aldermen spent nearly three hours in executive session. A portion of that time dealt with annexation. Evans said the board "decided to omit some of the proposed annexation areas" to make it more palatable and more likely to survive a court challenge by opposition.

Evans did not elaborate on which areas the city wanted to remove or if it involved previously reported changes. In February, the city tweaked the annexation to take out one section on the west side of town and added one parcel where the owner wanted to be included.

The former administration was secretive about its annexation ambitions and delayed or rebuffed attempts by the Daily Journal to discuss annexation for two years. The current annexation proposal was passed during a called special meeting last December that was not attended by the media.

Current Mayor Copey Grantham, who took office earlier this month, has pledged more transparency with his administration.

This seven-month delay in filing the annexation in Lee County Chancery Court will likely push the final court ruling back until late this year or early 2022. Once the plans are filed, a chancellor will review the case and schedule hearings to listen to arguments for and against the annexation. Since the city is working on the front end to limit opposition, that could move fairly quickly.

"The best guess on how long it will take is four or five months," Evans said in February. "It shouldn't take any longer than that unless you have opposition."

In December 2020, aldermen approved plans to annex 1,412 acres, which would push the city's size to more than 10 square miles.

The city identified eight Proposed Annexation Areas (PPA) on all sides of the city. A ninth area, roughly 50 acres between Highway 45 and Pull Tight Road, was removed earlier because of opposition that included a former alderman.

The proposed areas are, for the most part, large undeveloped stretches of unoccupied land. The smallest area is just seven acres, but two tracts are more than 400 acres apiece. There are less than 20 total residences in proposed annexation areas.

The four largest PAAs are prime locations for residential expansion. They are near established neighborhoods and close to city water and sewer lines.

If the annexation is approved, the city would offer police and fire protection to the new areas immediately. They would have to provide other city services, like water and sewer, within a reasonable time.

With a population around 5,000, the city currently covers 5,285 acres or 8.25 square miles. This annexation proposal is larger than the last three annexations combined and would increase the city's size by 26.7% to 10.46 square miles.

If approved, this will be the fourth annexation in the last 26 years. In 1995, the city took in 300 acres. Three years later, the city had its eye on another 650 acres. By the time that annexation was approved in late 1999, the size had been pared down to 500 acres.

The most recent annexation was in 2005, when 237 acres west of town was brought into the city limits. That area became the Ole South Plantation subdivision.

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