Thursday, May 28, 2009

In dispute between municipalities, the operative date for annexation is the date the smaller municipality's ordinance becomes effective

TOWN OF OAKLAND, A Municipal Corporation of the State of Tennessee v. TOWN OF SOMERVILLE, A Municipal Corporation of the State of Tennessee, in its Own Capacity, and by and Through ROBERT MORRIS in his Official Capacity as Mayor of Somerville, and the Following Members of the Board of Alderman in Their Official Capacity: LAND MIDDLECOFF, JOHN DAVID DOUGLAS, NAN GREEN, ALTON FEATHERS, CARLTON MORRIS and DOUG MASON; WILLIAM RUSSELL "RUSTY" HYNEMAN, Individually and d/b/a HYNEMAN DEVELOPMENT COMPANY; WRH ENTERPRISES, LLC; and WRH PROPERTIES, INC.
(Tenn. Ct. App. December 30, 2008).

This is the second appeal in an annexation case involving two municipalities. The plaintiff smaller municipality passed an ordinance annexing adjoining property. The annexation was to be effective ninety days later. The annexed property also adjoined the defendant larger municipality. After the passage of the plaintiff’s annexation ordinance, but before its effective date, the defendant municipality passed an ordinance annexing the same property. The plaintiff then filed a declaratory judgment action, asking the court to find that the defendant's annexation was invalid because it attempted to annex property that the plaintiff had already annexed. The trial court granted the defendant's motion to dismiss and the plaintiff municipality appealed. In the first appeal, we reversed and the case was remanded to the trial court. The defendant then filed a second motion to dismiss, arguing, inter alia, that its greater population gave it annexation priority over the plaintiff under Tennessee Code Annotated section 6-51-110. The trial court denied the defendant's motion, finding that the plaintiff's annexation of the disputed property took place upon the passage of the ordinance after its final reading, not the effective date of the ordinance. Consequently, it found, the statute giving annexation priority to the larger municipality was not applicable because the defendant larger municipality did not initiate annexation proceedings until after the plaintiff had already annexed the property. The defendant now appeals. We reverse, finding that the effective date of the annexation, not the date of final passage, is the operative date by which a municipality with a larger population must initiate annexation proceedings in order to take advantage of its statutory priority.

Opinion may be found at the TBA website:

"We now apply this reasoning to the facts of this case.  As noted above, Oakland passed the Oakland Ordinance on final reading on September 30, 1999.  By its own terms, the Oakland Ordinance was not to become effective until ninety days later, which would have been December 29, 1999.  On October 11, 1999, Somerville passed the Somerville Ordinance.  Because Somerville’s annexation proceedings were initiated prior to the effective date of the Oakland Ordinance, Somerville’s proceedings “have precedence” and Oakland’s annexation proceedings must be “held in abeyance” pending the outcome of Somerville’s proceedings, pursuant to section 6-51-110(b).  This is consistent with the holding of the Tennessee Supreme Court in the City of Gallatin case.  City of Gallatin, 510 S.W.2d at 508.  Thus, we must reverse the trial court’s holding that Somerville waited too late to assert its statutory priority." Id.