By John L. Ross
When Sam Lawson said “No,” he wanted to make sure all government officials heard his objection.
Lawson, a resident of the Croley Bend community of Whitley County, addressed the Whitley County Fiscal Court Tuesday to discuss the future possible annexation move by the city of Williamsburg.
In November, Williamsburg officials announced, and subsequently approved, a 20-year Comprehensive Plan designed to guide city leaders in the future growth of the city.
One section of that plan discussed potential areas which could be annexed into Williamsburg city limits — which has some residents concerned for their properties.
Lawson talked with his neighbors in the Croley Bend community, and with the help of other residents, quickly gathered 74 signatures on a petition against annexation. There are 79 citizens considered residents of the Croley Bend area.
Lawson presented his petition to the Williamsburg City Council during its last regular monthly meeting Feb. 11.
The petition lists four reasons for the objection to annexation — the area already receives police and fire protection through county services; street and road maintenance are adequately handled by county departments; the annexation would have a significant financial impact on the residents of the area; and the annexation is not in the best interest of property owners.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Lawson explained many property owners’ concerns involve financial impact. He explained much of the land in the Croley Bend area is farmland, on which live several varieties of livestock — which is illegal in the city limits per ordinance.
Further, Lawson explained the difference in property tax would hurt property owners in that community. He said that in the county, the tax rate is $7.45 per $1,000 property valuation.
The city tax rate is $10.46 per $1,000 property valuation.
This means in the county, a $100,000 property would tax at $745 annually. That same property would draw a $1,046 annual tax assessment within Williamsburg city limits.
Lawson said he is “all for progress for the city of Williamsburg” but does not believe this would be the best move. “What can (Williamsburg) give other than higher taxation?” Lawson asked Tuesday.
Magistrate Roger Wells said he has received several calls concerning possible future annexation.
Judge Executive Pat White, Jr. said the county cannot object if the annexation in question is a right-of-way annex.
However, White said if the actual properties came under the possibility of annexation into the city, the Fiscal Court would “have (the opportunity) to object to that.”
County Attorney Bob Hammons said forced annexation, which has never been discussed during the Williamsburg City Council meetings, has been “very difficult” to approve in the past, and is now “nearly impossible.”
No decision was required for this discussion. Lawson had already addressed the Williamsburg City Council last week to present the petition to the city. Williamsburg City Mayor Roddy Harrison said during the Feb. 11 meeting of city council “(there are) not any plans in the immediate future (to annex the area) — (it’s) one area possible to annex.”
During that same meeting, council members heard the first read of a right-of-way annexation ordinance. This would cover rights-of-way from Exit 15 of I-75 toward the Ballard Ford pump station.
“This does not annex anyone’s property,” stressed Harrison. “(We’re) not annexing at this point — it does not annex anyone into town.”
The annexation of this right-of-way property will allow for possible future annexation, according to Harrison.
“We can’t spot annex,” he said. “You have to have contiguous lines that touch the city of Williamsburg — this allows us the opportunity to grow as a city.”