Hill, et al. v City of Fair Oaks Ranch, 07-19-00037-CV (Tex. App. – Amarillo, Sep. 16, 2020)(mem. Op).
This is an annexation dispute where the Amarillo Court of Appeals reversed the grant of the City’s plea to the jurisdiction and remanded for trial.
In 2015 and 2016, the City was a general-law municipality and it did not annex any properties during those years. In 2017 it became a home-rule city and later that year adopted eleven annexation ordinances. Property owners challenged five of the ordinances. The five annexations added 20% to the City’s geographic area. The property owners challenge one annexation for violating the 1000-ft width requirement, and all five asserting they exceeded the maximum amount allowed by law for annexations. The City filed a plea to the jurisdiction, which the trial court granted. The owners appealed.
Chapter 43 of the Texas Local Government Code (dealing with annexation) waives immunity in limited circumstances. The issue is therefore only one of standing where owners have standing to challenge void ordinances but not procedural irregularities in the adoption process. Here, the landowners challenged the City’s involuntary annexation of the five contested areas as being void ab initio. While the court acknowledged the owners did not properly brief the 1000-ft arguments, they did properly allege the annexations exceeded the area allowed within a given year under § 43.055. Those allegations, if proven, would establish that the City’s annexation ordinances are void, not merely voidable. The court determined that because the plea must be analyzed “under the rubric of a summary judgment” findings of fact and conclusions of law are not proper because there has been no conventional trial on the merits and are superfluous. In closing, the court noted the parties “would have this court drift into the merits by engaging in statutory construction of the relevant statutes and determining whether the City violated those statutes. Such an analysis would be premature and beyond the scope of a de novo review…” As a result, the order granting the plea was reversed and the case remanded for trial.
If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel consists of Justices Pirtle, Parker and Doss.