Denton City Hall

Denton City Council members Tuesday will vote on 11 items dealing with non-annexation agreements with property owners near the city’s borders.

The council has routinely made such agreements since 2010, with the most recent batch of agreements processed in 2016.

Property owners with some form of agricultural exemption essentially promise to abide by certain development standards, and in turn, the city agrees to not annex the property. Annexation comes with certain perks for property owners, and it brings in more tax revenue for municipalities.

Some property owners, however, aren’t keen on the prospect. Roughly 80% of the 156 property owners sent notice of the impending non-annexation agreements had signed onto the five-year compromise ahead of Tuesday’s council meeting. At least seven others had requested some change to their agreements.

Nathan Harvey, one of the property owners seeking changes to the non-annexation agreements, created the online group “City of Denton Forced Annexation” on Facebook.

He urged fellow property owners to contact him in a post made after an Aug. 4 City Council meeting.

“I believe the reality is property owners were told to sign this agreement within the next week, which allows us to annex you in 5 years, or be annexed now,” he wrote in part. “It’s like being told, ‘I’m going to chop your arm off now, or you can sign this agreement that you agree to me chopping it off in 5 years.’ That’s not really a choice.”

A bill signed into law in 2017 allows for property owners up to 45-year contracts, and some property owners previously asked council members for a longer term. Others also requested language be deleted from the contract to make it more difficult for the city to annex them.

Council members had a somewhat contentious discussion of the proposals during their Aug. 4 meeting, but a consensus eventually emerged in favor of keeping the five-year contracts.

Member Gerard Hudspeth said he didn’t feel the council had enough time to properly negotiate different terms, but he indicated he would like to see those talks take place over the next five years after contracts are signed.

Deb Armintor, another council member, was vocal about her desire for the city to accept the requests from some property owners granting them longer contracts with more privileges.

“We’ve never annexed someone that didn’t necessarily want to be annexed in, or if we have, it’s been with a lot of negotiation — a lot of forethought,” Mayor Chris Watts said during the Aug. 4 discussion.

Member Jesse Davis also spoke in favor of keeping the contracts free of changes proposed by property owners. He said the non-annexation agreements already represent a compromise.

“These are neighbors, but they’re not residents,” he said. “These are potentially adverse parties in some future annexation action.”

He also argued a lack of such agreements could create a situation in which substandard developments pop up around Denton’s city limits, the residents of which would eventually request annexation to receive city services, thus shackling the city with a costly list of projects to bring construction up to its standards.

MARSHALL REID can be reached at 940-566-6862 and via Twitter at @MarshallKReid.

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