City annexation may be on the way



The City Council gave unanimous approval May 13 for City staff to begin preparing service plans for areas within the Liberty Hill extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) that could lead to annexation.

The move was precipitated by Texas Senate passage of House Bill 347 that will eliminate most unilateral annexations by any city.

“After this, they have taken unilateral annexation off the table. Cities will no longer be able to involuntarily annex. We were planning on an involuntary annexation in June, but we have kind of pushed it forward a little bit,” Liberty Hill Director of Planning Sally McFeron told the Council at its last regular meeting.

City Attorney Dottie Palumbo said beginning the process now, before the law goes into effect, would allow the City to proceed with planned annexation up to the current limits.

“One provision of the bill is the changes will not apply to a resolution adopted by the City directing the City Manager to prepare a service plan,” Palumbo said. “So we have prepared a resolution directing the City Administrator to prepare the necessary service plan for areas within the City’s ETJ to be considered for annexation. When you initiate an annexation like this you don’t have to annex all these properties, you can delete some of the properties, some of the properties may be too large for unilateral annexation.”

There are 4.2 square miles in the city limits currently, including most recent additions, the 366-acre Butler Tract on the north side of SH 29 and south of County Road 206 and 37 acres at Estates of Liberty Hill, located just northeast of Seward Junction.

Under current law, the City can annex 10 percent of the its total acreage per year, or save it up for up to three years for a total of 30 percent that can be annexed. To be considered for annexation the property has to be in the ETJ and it has to be contiguous.

“We’re at the 30 percent mark,” McFeron said. “We can annex 864 acres, and the list of properties (identified for the Council in the ETJ) is about 1,200 acres.

“I’ll be going through these properties and analyze them, pull out the ones you want to do annexation development agreements with that we have to do because they are large properties, and we will just continue that process,” McFeron told the Council.

At the May 28 meeting, McFeron plans to have a complete timeline for the annexation process and map available.

One step in the process is to prepare future development agreements for agricultural property.

“If a property is deemed agricultural, the City has to offer a development agreement for annexation, and a development agreement for annexation is basically where you do an agreement that basically says when you do develop the property, then it will come into the city limits,” McFeron said. “We want to bring them in, but the point is you don’t take away their agricultural exemption.”