VOL. 132 | NO. 71 | Monday, April 10, 2017
Task Force Backs 3 De-Annexations, 3 Referendums
By Bill Dries
A task force on de-annexation is recommending referendums in three recently annexed areas of Memphis, an automatic de-annexation of three other sparsely populated areas on the city’s borders and keeping a part of Raleigh proposed by Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland for de-annexation.
A task force on de-annexation is recommending referendums on de-annexation in three areas and a quicker route to de-annexation in three others. The recommendation goes to the Memphis City Council next and follows a series of public hearings in the affected areas recommended by Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.
(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)
The task force of city and county leaders, led by Memphis City Council member Bill Morrison, concluded its work Thursday, April 6, with the recommendations that go to the Memphis City Council for approval.
The three referendums recommended for votes by residents “at the next legally available election” would be:
• South Cordova – an area of 4,146 citizens with 1,860 homes recently annexed, but also parts of Cordova annexed in 1984, including some subdivisions that straddle the city-county line.
• Rocky Point – an area of 1,181 people and 336 homes that is east of Cordova, north of Walnut Grove Road and between the alignment of Forest Hill and Rocky Point roads.
• Southwind-Windyke – an area of 1,499 people and 845 houses that includes a golf course and some commercial properties.
The areas that would be automatically de-annexed without a referendum are:
• River-bottom land covering 13.4 square miles in southwest Memphis prone to flooding that is uninhabited.
• Frayser’s 2.2 square miles of land along Highway 51 and Old Millington Road that includes the city police and fire training academies with three residents and one home on what is otherwise rural land.
• Eads between Cobb Road to the west and the county line. This is the portion of Eads not in the unincorporated county with 172 citizens living in 61 homes.
The Raleigh section the task force recommends keeping in the city is four square miles along New Allen Road north of Ridgemont Road that borders the Loosahatchie River. Some of the residential subdivisions in this area straddle the line separating Memphis from the unincorporated county. An estimated 3,671 citizens live in 1,739 homes in the area.
Taking Raleigh out of the calculations, if the other six areas were de-annexed the city would lose 7,001 citizens and 2,973 homes as well as 23.7 square miles.
Following the report at Thursday’s task force meeting, Strickland said he backs the recommendations.
“I fully support today’s recommendations, which come after an intensive, locally-driven study of data and much public feedback,” Strickland said in a written statement. “By de-annexing these areas, we will right size Memphis – making ours a more densely populated city, which makes service delivery more efficient. It’s the right action to take for the long-term health of Memphis.”
Morrison said at the outset of the task force sessions, which included public hearings in the areas proposed for de-annexation by Strickland, that there would be some kind of move to voluntary de-annexation.
Other council members have said de-annexation of any substantially populated area will be a tough sell to get their votes. They take the position that the areas were legally annexed by the city under state laws approved by the Tennessee Legislature.
The task force was formed after legislation proposed in the Tennessee Legislature in 2016 would have allowed de-annexation referendums in Memphis and several other Tennessee cities for areas that were annexed as far back as 18 years ago.
Strickland said the impact of such a law would have been the loss of up to 17 percent of the city’s population and 12 percent of the city’s tax revenue.
But backers said realistically, only voters in South Cordova, Southwind and Windyke probably would have voted to de-annex in referendums.
Strickland rallied mayors of other cities targeted by the state legislation and the Greater Memphis Chamber to successfully stop the legislation.
A new version of the legislation is pending in Nashville. Earlier this week in Nashville, state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville proposed an amendment to the pending legislation that would exempt any municipality from the proposal if that city or town has begun taking steps toward de-annexation by January 2018.