It’s logical that many people in Lakeview and other subdivisions adjacent to Columbia don’t want to be annexed. There’s no escaping that they’ll pay more in property taxes from the city’s portion of the millage (although the higher amounts come from the county general fund and the city school district).
But fighting the case will most likely result in a loss.
Annexation law in Mississippi leans in favor of cities. For citizens to win a fight with a municipality, there generally must be obvious deficiencies with the plan. That would be something like taking in a narrow strip where businesses are, such as Hattiesburg is planning to do along U.S. 98 in Bellevue, or crossing a natural boundary like a river.
Columbia isn’t doing anything radical like that; rather it is taking in areas that are logically part of the city and always have been.
These are newer developments — by that I mean more recent than when the city was originally developed and the lines drawn — right next door, and someone who did not know where the city limits are would not know when they crossed from incorporated to unincorporated territory.
The reason annexation law in Mississippi favors cities is because cities grow out naturally over time. There’s been little new development within the Columbia city limits for decades; most of the new homes are built surrounding the existing city. That’s what happens in pretty much every place in America — bands of development around the edges of cities that build up in layers. It makes sense that it’s easier to build new homes on undeveloped property than working within existing neighborhoods.
However, the city boundaries don’t automatically expand to take in that growth. It’s a hassle to do an annexation, and most of the time areas adjacent to a city are not taken in until something forces the city’s hand.
In this case, it’s a dramatic loss in business and residents over the past decade that has stretched thin the budgets of both the city and county. Because of that, the city is doing what really should have been done years ago — taking in housing developments and businesses that have always been part of Columbia in everything but name only.
No one wants to pay higher taxes. But in this case, everyone in the area benefits from a strong city of Columbia, which I think most people in Marion County realize. That requires everyone to have some skin in the game as far as monetary contributions. I live in the area to be annexed, and I estimate, based on tax records, it will add about $254 a year to the property taxes on my home, not something anyone wants to pay but not enough to significantly hamper quality of life.
I’m sure this column will generate some nice hate mail and phone calls from people opposed to annexation. The only thing I can say about that is this editorial page is open to all opinions; why not write your thoughts if you disagree instead of attacking me? I’ll publish whatever anyone wants to write about this or any other subject of public concern. Why can’t we as a society disagree without being nasty with one another? But that’s a topic for another day.
My main point is that battling Columbia’s annexation, regardless of how you feel about it, is unlikely to be successful. The Mississippi Supreme Court has set out 12 “indicia of reasonableness” that chancellors are to use when deciding annexation cases. If you read through those (I’ve include a list elsewhere on this page), you can easily see the city’s case will be strong.
I don’t blame annexation opponents for giving their side in court when a chancellor hears the case. But if his decision is in favor of the city, it would be better to accept it and move forward as a unified city than go through a lengthy and costly appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court when the presumptive outcome leans so strongly in favor of one side.
Charlie Smith is editor and publisher of The Columbian-Progress. Reach him at (601) 736-2611 or email@example.com.