Annexation coming soon for Tupelo

By EMILY LE COZ / NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Barring a successful appeal by opponents, the city’s annexation is all but a done deal.
Specially appointed Judge Edward C. Prisock last week granted Tupelo permission to absorb some 15 square miles of unincorporated land ringing its current boundaries.
Along with the land comes roughly 2,500 residents and two dozen businesses.
Opponents – including Lee County, the city of Saltillo and the town of Plantersville – have 30 days to appeal the decision to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
But Tupelo’s city attorney, Guy Mitchell, said an appeal is unlikely because the judge’s decision was overwhelmingly convincing.
On each of the 12 factors of reasonableness needed to prove an annexation has merit, the judge found evidence to support Tupelo’s plan.
And in some cases, he found the evidence to be “substantial.”
Prisock either dismissed opponents’ varied objections or stated that they didn’t provide enough evidence to support them.
“In reflecting on the complexity of this case, the amount of information available for comment in this opinion is massive,” Prisock wrote in his 25-page decision.
“The time spent in trial was long and tedious. The record seems very complete. It has been extremely helpful to the Court in gleaning from the case law a very extensive list of indicia, factors and guidelines. This has been helpful in removing the decision-making process from the realm of the subjective to one that relies very heavily on objective data and information.”
If opponents decide not to appeal, the annexation will become official 10 days after the end of the appeal deadline. If they do appeal, expect the case to drag on in the state Supreme Court.


Q: How many square miles will be annexed?
A: The original plan called for 16.15 square miles, but a portion of the annexation territory – in the southwest corner – was omitted by the judge. The new figure likely will be closer to 15 square miles, but the official count won’t be done until an expert has a chance to recalculate it.


Q: How many residents will be affected?
A: Again, the original estimate was 2,800. The new number likely will be less than 2,500.


Q: What subdivisions will be annexed?
A: Autumn Hills, Big Oaks, Charleston Gardens, Creekwood Estates, Deer Park Estates, Dickens Village, Grand Ole Oaks, The Grove, Hillside, Indian Hills, Pines at Barnes Crossing, Ravenwood, Ridgewood, Saddle Creek, Summerlin, The Summit, Trace Ridge, Wesley Cove and Westwind.


Q: What about businesses?
A: ABF Trucking, All Star Cleaners, BP Service Station, Chesterville Grocery, Chesterville Mini-Storage, Cooley Transport, Dobbs Engineering, Dollar General, Federal Express, Green-Save, Huddle House, Kirby’s, Larry Moore, Legends, Kaukey Industries, Mississippi Auto Sales, Shapes and Shades Hair Salon, Spartech Industries, Spencer’s Log Cabin, Sprint Mart, Title Loans, Tools-N-Moore, TransPower National Lease, Tupelo Plants, White Oak Oil and Wingate Hotel.


Q: How much more will the average county homeowner pay after annexation?
A:For a $100,000 house, the homeowner will pay an additional $325; for a $150,000 house, an additional $487.
But they won’t have to pay the 4 mills assessed by Lee County for volunteer fire departments because they’ll receive city fire services instead. And if they already receive city utilities, they’ll pay 50 percent less on their monthly utility bills.


Q: What are the advantages of being annexed?
A:Residents will be able to vote in city elections, get city police and fire protection, benefit from lower fire ratings, get city sewer services, have more street lighting, receive twice-weekly garbage collection and twice-monthly curbside recycling, get enforced municipal zoning and planning.


Q:What are the disadvantages of being annexed?
A:- Residents will pay higher taxes, have another layer of government to deal with, and be subject to stricter ordinances governing zoning, codes, pets, property maintenance and a host of other issues.


Q: How much will the city spend to provide services to the newly annexed areas?
A:It will cost the city about $25 million over the next five years to fully implement services and facilities to the newly annexed areas.
Costs include hiring five new public works employees, four new police officers, three new firefighters, one new building inspector and extending water, sewer, street lights and other services to the new areas.


Q:How much will the city gain in additional tax revenue from the annexation?
A: Roughly $650,000 per year (about half of Tupelo’s estimated expense of services in the annexed areas).


Q: How much in legal and consultant fees have been spent since the city launched this annexation attempt?
A: About $1 million.


Q: What are the 12 factors of reasonableness the city had to prove in order to win its annexation bid?
A: They are: 1. The city’s need to expand.
2. Whether the areas sought to be annexed are reasonably within a path of growth for the city.
3. Potential health hazards from sewage and waste disposal in the annexed areas.
4. The city’s financial ability to make the improvements and furnish municipal services promised.
5. Need for zoning and overall planning in the areas.
6. Need for city serves in the areas sought to be annexed.
7. Whether there are natural barriers between the city and the proposed annexation areas.
8. Past performance and time element involved in the city’s provision of services to its present residents.
9. Economic or other impact of the annexation upon those who live in or own property in the proposed annexation areas.
10. Impact of the annexation upon the voting strength of the protected minority groups.
11. Whether the property owners and other inhabitants of the areas sought to be annexed have in the past and in the foreseeable future unless annexed will, because of their reasonable proximity to the corporate limits of the city, enjoy economic and social benefits of the city without paying their fair share of taxes.
12. Any other factors that may suggest reasonableness.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.