The following is a summary of the conference committee report which was adopted by both houses of the General Assembly on the last day of session. There are numerous exceptions and limitations in the bill which cannot all be covered in a brief summary; however, this report should explain the general provisions of the bill regarding the topics most important to county governments.
The law calls for the development of a comprehensive growth plan in each county covering 20 years. The plan identifies 3 distinct types of areas:
(1) “urban growth boundaries” (UGB) - these regions contain the corporate limits of a municipality and the adjoining territory where growth is expected;
(2) “planned growth areas” (PGA) - compact sections outside incorporated municipalities where growth is expected if there are such areas in the county; new incorporations may only occur within these regions and must conform to the adopted growth plan.
(3) “rural areas” (RA) - territory not within one of the other two categories which is to be preserved for uses other than dense commercial or residential development such as agricultural uses, parks, and greenbelt preservation, if these areas exist in the county.
The initial draft of a growth plan is developed by a coordinating committee whose membership, as set forth in the new law, is composed of members representing the county, cities, utilities, schools, chambers of commerce, the soil conservation district, and others. After the plan is developed, the committee conducts public hearings on the plan and submits it to each city and county for ratification. The committee may revise the plan upon objection from local governments. If no satisfactory compromise can be reached, the local governments may petition the Secretary of State to appoint a dispute resolution panel of administrative law judges to settle the conflicts. The deadline for completing and approving the plan is July 1, 2001.
HOLD HARMLESS FINANCIAL PROVISIONS:
When a city annexes territory, revenue amounts generated in that area by local option sales taxes and wholesale beer taxes which had been received by county prior to the annexation continue to go to county for fifteen years after the date of the annexation. Any increases in the situs based portion of the revenues generated in the annexed area would be distributed to the annexing municipality. Note that this does not affect the distribution of the first half of the local option sales tax which would continue to go to education funding. If commercial activity in the annexed area decreases due to business closures or relocations, a city may petition the Department of Revenue to adjust the payments it makes to the county.
PLAN OF SERVICES:
A municipality must formulate a plan of services including certain named services for any area to be annexed. For any services that are provided to the area by another entity other than the county, the municipality does not have to provide those services under the plan and may leave them with the other entity. The plan must contain a timetable for implementation and must specify the level of each service provided. Amendments are allowed if the changes are not material, are necessary because of reasonably unforseen circumstances, or are approved by majority of property owners. As a change from current law, aggrieved property owners will have standing to enforce the plan. Municipalities in default on a plan of service may not annex additional territory until they comply with the previous plan of services. These provisions are retro-active and apply to annexations which were finalized after November 25, 1997.
STANDING ON ANNEXATION ACTIONS:
In the period before adoption of a growth plan, a county may have standing to contest an annexation if it adopts a resolution opposing the annexation and if it is petitioned by a majority of the property owners in the area to be annexed. If the county files such an action on behalf of the citizens, the trial is conducted before a judge, without a jury. Citizens keep the same rights to file a suit on their own during that period and retain the right to jury in those actions. After a growth plan is established, the burden of challenging an annexation within the urban growth boundary shifts to the citizen and the right to a jury trial is removed. If petitioned by a majority of the property owners in the territory, counties also have standing to challenge the reasonableness of a plan of services for any annexations that are not final on the effective date of the bill and for those areas annexed before the comprehensive growth plan is adopted. Counties, cities and citizens have standing to challenge adoption of a growth plan, with the burden of proving that its adoption was arbitrary and capricious. After the plan is established, the county has no standing to challenge annexations within a UGB, but annexation may only occur outside the UGB by referendum. The city could amend or expand a UGB, but only by going through the procedures outlined above for the initial adoption of the plan. The city could not unilaterally change its UGB.
During the interim period before a growth plan is adopted, no annexations of a corridor, highway, right-of-way, etc. are allowed unless the municipality also annexes all parcels on one side of the corridor or obtains consent of county legislative body. An exception is allowed where the owner of three or more acres of property, which are located within 1.5 miles of the city limits, petitions the city for annexation and agrees to provide the necessary infrastructure improvements for the property. This exception may not, however, be used to extend any previous corridor annexation. After the growth plan is adopted, there are some protections against corridor annexation: UGBs must be compact and contiguous to the existing municipality and are determined in collaboration with the county. Furthermore, the hold harmless provisions in the law reduce incentives for corridor annexation.
ANNEXATION ACROSS COUNTY LINES:
After the effective date of the act, no city may annex on its own initiative across the county line unless the city contained territory in the other county as of November 25, 1997, and that territory contains at least 7% of the total city population, unless the city provided sanitary sewer service to 100 or more residential customers in the other county, or unless the city obtains county approval.
No new school system may be established. Any municipality incorporated after date of passage must enact a property tax at least equal to the amount of revenues derived annually by the municipality from state shared taxes. Provides incentives for consolidation and allows charter commissions upon petition by citizens. A municipality may not use zoning powers to interfere with the agricultural use of land as long as the property continues to be used for agricultural purposes.