By Kevin M. Smith
Killeen Daily Herald
In two public hearings and multiple workshops, the Killeen City Council has heard many questions about proposed annexation. The most common question – sometimes directly, sometimes underlying – has been "Why?"
The answer is because if the city doesn't annex now, it might not have an opportunity to grow in the future, city officials said.
"If we don't do what we need to now, we're going to stop growing," Killeen Councilman Juan Rivera said during a workshop Nov. 20.
He later noted that he has not decided which way he will vote on proposed annexation.
The city is considering annexing five tracts of land totaling 7,694 acres (about 12 square miles).
At that Nov. 20 workshop, Killeen City Manager Connie Green warned that when other cities annex, their extraterritorial jurisdiction is extended and Killeen's ability to grow will be diminished.
"All of these cities are looking out for their ETJs and growth," Mayor Timothy Hancock said at the Nov. 20 workshop.
ETJ is the legal ability of a government to exercise authority beyond its normal boundaries.
"Your city size determines what your ETJ is," Belton City Manager Sam Listi said.
It also gives the city first rights to annexation of an area if it is in the city's ETJ. When a city gets larger, its ETJ is extended.
"A city with a large ETJ like Killeen or Temple, a little annexation goes a long way," Listi said.
Belton has a one-mile-wide ETJ.
Green said Temple is annexing to push its ETJ to Farm-to-Market 439.
"The other cities are aggressively annexing," Green said.
Temple City Manager David Blackburn said his city is considering five areas totalling about 10.6 square miles to annex. Four areas were initiated by the city and one is voluntary.
"In some of these areas, we are already providing services," Blackburn said for the reason for proposed annexation.
He said that Temple is also trying to protect itself to allow for future growth.
"The interests that the city has are to protect corridors and assets," Blackburn said.
He said that before this annexation, the last time Temple annexed was in the mid-1990s when it extended west from Loop 363 nearly to Belton Lake. Temple's current population is about 60,000, Blackburn said.
Meanwhile, smaller towns are annexing, but not necessarily seeking a larger population. The Village of Salado recently took in 13 residences, according to Suzi Epps, alderwoman.
Salado is a type B city, which means it cannot annex at will; instead, annexed land must be volunteered by the property owner.
"It's not easy to have all these folks come in, we have difficulty stretching our arms and allowing them to come," Epps said, noting Salado does not have a property tax.
She said the recent annexation did not extend the city limits – it brought those residents into Salado's ETJ.
"It protects them," Epps said.
Charles Williams' volunteered his home for Salado annexation because he did not want to end up in Killeen's city limits in the future.
"They come in with a lot of different rules and regulations and taxes," said Williams, president of the Hidden Springs Home Owners Association near Salado. "We do not want to be annexed into Killeen."
He said it would be "awkward" to be in the city because so much of it is far away. Williams sent an e-mail to the other 125 homeowners in Hidden Springs, urging them to seek voluntary annexation with Salado "before they (Killeen) gobble us up."
The Hidden Springs Home Owners Association Web site has a link to a form for residents to fill out for voluntary annexation. Hidden Springs is about four miles west of Interstate Highway 35 off of Farm-to-Market 2843.
Other cities are not annexing. Harker Heights City Manager Steve Carpenter said his town has plenty of room to grow.
"We have not talked about anything specifically," Carpenter said.
The last annexation for Harker Heights was in 2004 and Carpenter said the city just recently finished installing the water lines for that.
"I would think if we were to annex anything – and we haven't scheduled anything – it would be north of 2410," Carpenter said.
He said there is no land grab planned for Harker Heights.
"That's not a problem for us, we're pretty much land-locked anyway," Carpenter said.
Harker Heights currently has a population of about 26,000.
"The city of Harker Heights has enough land currently to grow to 40,000 to 45,000 people," Carpenter said.
And that's big enough for Carpenter.
"We know we're not going to be a huge city," Carpenter said.
He said future annexation would be for a specific purpose or if a landowner requests it for development.
Listi said Belton doesn't need to annex any time soon.
"We're in pretty good shape," Listi said.
Annexation south of town along the I-35 corridor a few years ago gave the city enough room to grow in the near future, Listi said.
"We've established some protective annexation strips," Listi said.
The Killeen City Council will vote at its Dec. 18 meeting whether to annex the proposed areas.
The Temple City Council will vote this month on whether to annex the proposed areas.
Contact Kevin M. Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7550