Unity Village Annexation
What is the process by which land is annexed into a city?
Two procedures exist for annexation of land.
- Voluntary annexations may occur if 100% of the property owners in an area petition a city for annexation. If the city consents, a public hearing must be held before a city can approve the petition. The public hearing cannot be held until at least 14 days after the petition is received. When property owners voluntarily annex, there is no requirement for the annexing city to provide any kind of plan or timetable for providing municipal services to the annexing area.
- Involuntary annexations can only occur if the annexation is approved in an election, where the annexation
has been approved by a majority of votes cast in the area to be annexed, and by a majority of votes cast in the city. Before an election can occur, cities must also comply with extensive legal requirements set forth in 71.015 RSMo. to ensure that interests of annexed property owners are protected. Among the requirements, annexing cities must adopt a plan of intent to provide services to the area within three years after the annexation is approved, and must state how the city proposes to zone the area to be annexed. As additional protection, cities cannot involuntarily annex the land unless they also obtains a declaratory judgment from the Circuit Court that the annexation is reasonable and necessary, and a judicial determination of the City’s ability to provide normal municipal services within three years. If that does not occur, they cannot annex the land.
An additional protection for property owners who are involuntarily annexed is that they have the right to file suit to de-annex if the city fails to provide services or zone in compliance with the plan within three years after the effective date of the annexation.
How long does the annexation process take?
Voluntary annexations can occur quickly. Since annexing cities are not required to prepare plans for delivery of services, or to make any representations regarding zoning for the annexed land, the process can be completed in less than a month. Fourteen days notice is required prior to the public hearing on the annexation petition, and an additional 14 days is allowed after the hearing for anyone with standing to object. If a valid objection is filed, there is a statutory requirement that the annexation be submitted to a vote. As a practical matter, most voluntary annexations take several months to complete, since informed property owners usually carefully negotiate a contract with the annexing city to protect their rights before submitting a voluntary annexation petition. Without such a contract, they would have no recourse regarding any verbal representations that may have been made to induce the voluntary petition.
Involuntary annexations take much longer to complete, because of the procedural steps to protect the rights of property owners and the extensive planning that is required. The first step is the passage of a Resolution of Intent to Annex by a city. For several months thereafter, the annexing city is usually busy preparing a formal plan of intent to provide services to the area proposed for annexation, plus a proposed time schedule whereby a city plans to provide such services within three years from the date of annexation, as well as proposed zoning maps, tax rates, and various other information required by 71.015 RSMo.
Once the Plan is prepared, the City must hold a public hearing on the Plan. No ordinance to approve the involuntary annexation can be approved without such a public hearing. Individual written notices must be sent by certified mail to all property owners in the area to be annexed, plus notice must also be published for three weeks prior to the hearing in the newspaper. After the public hearing, if the Council passes the Ordinance, the matter must be submitted to public vote by residents of the area to be annexed and by residents of the city. The proposition must pass by a majority of the votes cast in both areas, or it fails. As an additional step to protect property owners, involuntary annexations are not allowed unless the matter is also litigated before the Circuit Court, and a Declaratory Judgment is rendered by the Court that the annexation is reasonable and necessary, and a city has the ability to deliver municipal services within three years. The time necessary to complete the litigation depends on the complexity of the issues.