Politics & Government

Lawmakers limit cities' annexation power

TOPEKA — Lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a bill to restrict the way cities add to their territory on Wednesday, despite concerns that the proposed new rules could slow growth and economic development.

By votes of 105-17 and 31-6, the House and Senate passed Senate Bill 150.

It will now go to the governor.

The bill would require a vote of affected property owners when a city and county approve an annexation of more than 40 acres.

A county commission would need a two-thirds vote to go forward, rather than a simple majority.

Annexations of less than 40 acres would not require a public vote, but commission approval would still require a two-thirds supermajority. Cities would still be allowed to annex land without a county commission vote in some circumstances.

The bill shortens the time residents have to wait to try to undo an annexation if they think the city is not providing adequate public services.

At present, a county commission is required to hold a hearing five years after an annexation to determine whether the city that took the land is adequately providing services.

SB150 shortens that to three years.

In cases where the county determines a city is not providing adequate services, the city now has two years to correct the problem before an annexation can be revoked. SB150 shortens that to 18 months.

Sedgwick County has experienced numerous annexation fights in recent years, especially among the smaller cities north of Wichita.

In 2008 and 2009, former county Commissioner Kelly Parks was part of a movement to form a new city called West Valley, in an effort to stop Valley Center from annexing rural residents who didn't want to be part of that city.

In 2007, the County Commission ruled that Park City had failed to provide adequate services to annexed residents of neighborhoods just east and southeast of Wichita Greyhound Park.

Rep. Steve Huebert, R-Valley Center, a supporter of SB150, called it "a good compromise" between representatives of property owners and municipal governments.

He said extensive negotiations had resulted in legislation that put more conditions on annexation, but still gained the support of the Kansas League of Municipalities.

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