City’s standing challenge in annexation suit does not encompass an analysis of the merits says 3rd Court of Appeals.

Cokins, et al v City of Lakeway, No. 03-12-00083-CV (Tex. App. Austin, July 25, 2013).

This is an annexation dispute where the trial court granted the City of Lakeway’s plea to the jurisdiction and the various property owners appealed.

The City annexed a sparsely-populated area that is contiguous to the City on two sides.  The City asserts it is therefore not bound by the 1000 width requirement or the three-year plan requirement found in Chapter 43 of the Texas Local Government Code. The land owners asserted the City 1) failed to complete the annexation within 90 days, 2) the area is less than 1000 feet in width at is narrowest point and not contiguous to the City on two sides, and 3) City failed to comply with procedural requirements.

The Austin Court of Appeals made a distinction between whether the landowners would ultimately fail on the merits vs whether they have standing to sue in the first place. Since the City only filed a plea to the jurisdiction attacking standing, and not a motion for summary judgment on the merits, the plea should not have been granted on the first two issues (90 day deadline and width requirements). The court seemed to ignore whether the plea included evidence or whether a fact issue existed and merely noted that since the first two issues were ones based on merit instead of standing, the plea should not have been granted.  However, procedural irregularities can only be brought in a quo warranto proceeding. Therefore the landowners are without standing to challenge the annexations for such procedural infirmities.  The trial court’s order was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

If you would like to read this opinion click here.