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Annexation opponents gear up for court fight

Citizens concerned about Brookhaven’s annexation are beginningto formally organize and raise funds to fight the plan.

Approximately 60-75 residents, from both inside and outside thecity in the proposed annexation area, attended a meeting Thursdaynight to discuss their options.

“I thought the meeting went well,” said Field Lark Lane residentSandra Gerald, who has assumed an informal leadership role in theannexation issue. “I was pleased we had that many people come.”

Speaking to the group last night, Gerald offered only oneguarantee as citizens aim to keep from being annexed.

“If you do not object to it, you’re going to be annexed. That’sthe only guarantee we have,” Gerald said.

Gerald urged meeting participants to add their names to a listof objectors being compiled at the chancery clerk’s office. As ofFriday morning, 108 individuals or families had joined thelist.

“If we don’t tell them, how else are they going to know,” Geraldsaid.

To challenge the city’s plans, the group is looking to raise$10,000 to $15,000 to retain Brookhaven attorney Carlisle Hendersonand a planning consultant who would serve as objectors’ expert atthe trial scheduled for Nov. 5. Gerald said Henderson has anassociate, who was not identified, who has some experience incontesting annexation cases.

Gerald said 52 people Thursday either pledged funds orcontributed to the effort.

“Some paid more than was asked,” Gerald said, referring to a$100 per person request.

Father Edward Hale, who lives on West Minnesota Street, spoke uplast night to pledge $100. He indicated that county residents arenot the only ones concerned about the annexation.

“There are plenty of people in the city limits who areobjecting,” Hale said.

Field Lark Lane resident Coleman Lea said some concernedcitizens may be in a position to contribute more to theanti-annexation effort.

“We’re willing to fight this thing to the ditch and beyond if wehave to,” Lea said.

Lea was optimistic about opposing the annexation, but cautionedthat objectors cannot have a negative attitude.

“I believe we do have a chance,” Lea said.

The discussion during last night’s meeting touched on a varietyof questions regarding taxation, city services such as police andfire, potential insurance benefits of being inside the city andother issues.

“There’s a lot of questions we don’t have answers to,” Geraldsaid.

Citing hunting privileges and fewer regulations, Gerald saidmany citizens had chosen to live outside the city. She acknowledgedthe possibility of city benefits from better police and fireprotection, but also said those services in the county areadequate.

“Most of us in the county are satisfied with what we have,”Gerald said.

Gerald asserted that the annexation would mean taxation withoutrepresentation.

“If we don’t want it, why is it being forced upon us?” saidGerald, adding that there should be legislation to allow a vote onan annexation. “At least the majority of the people would beheard.”

Gerald also disputed potential economic development benefits ofan enlarged city.

“I don’t think it’s necessary to have large corporate limits tohave industry here,” Gerald said.

According to the city’s demographic data about the annexation,the expansion would increase the city’s land area from 7.3 squaremiles to 23.9 square miles. In terms of population, the total wouldrise from the current 9,861 to 13,198.

With the city’s population under 10,000, the board of aldermenis in line to shrink to five members instead of the current seven.That aspect of the annexation plan was also mentioned lastnight.

Instead of trying to take in more people, Gerald said shebelieved city funds would have been better spent contesting censustotals that lowered the city’s population. After the 1990 census,the city’s population was listed at 10,243.

“They would find out there’s more people in Brookhaven than theythink there is,” Gerald said.

Although the city must address 12 indicia of reasonableness asto why the annexation should be granted, Gerald said she felt likethe burden of proof was on county residents to show why it shouldnot be approved.

Should the annexation be rejected, Gerald said the city couldpursue the matter again in less than a year later. She was hopefulcity residents would oppose such a move if that happened.

“I would hope the people in the city would get a littledisgruntled at another attempt so soon,” Gerald said.