Objector: City has lot to prove

Published 5:00 am Monday, June 18, 2007

Brookhaven will soon be growing in size and in population.

A motion filed by the Citizens Against Annexation for arehearing of the state Supreme Court’s earlier affirmation of thecity’s expansion was rejected Thursday. The ruling clears the wayfor the city to annex 14.4 square miles and add an estimated morethan 3,000 to its population.

Mayor Bob Massengill said he is excited to finally have adecision.

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“I’m really excited about the future of Brookhaven and LincolnCounty. We have so many good things happening, and this is one,” hesaid. “There have been so many businesses that haven’t looked atlocating here because our population has been under 10,000, and nowwe’re over 13,000. This will be great for our city.”

The city will begin providing fire and police protection to theannexed area within 10 days. City officials have said they hope towork closely with county services during the transition period.

“We look forward to working with volunteer departments in thatarea because we’ve always had a good cooperation with those areas,”said Massengill.

In a small victory for annexation opponents, their request forthe original opinion’s withdrawal was granted and a new one wasissued Thursday. The new ruling is essentially the same as theoriginal, but some statements were removed or modified.

The 14-page document does not include some of the language foundoffensive by objectors, such as the implication that the CAA was a”N.I.M.B.Y.” (Not In My Back Yard) organization.

“I think that it’s good that they did that,” said CAAspokeswoman Sandra Gerald. “That was one of our reasons for ourrequest. I’m disappointed they didn’t grant the rehearing sincethey made several errors in the opinion as we stated in the requestfor rehearing.”

City Attorney Joe Fernald said he felt the language did not needto be removed from the opinion.

“The Supreme Court has stated that the case for annexation iscompelling. It’s fair regardless,” he said. “The only thing thathas changed is the Supreme Court has removed language that theobjectors have objected to. The objectors felt it was insulting; Ifelt it was accurate.”

Gerald said having the final annexation ruling did not relieveher even a little.

“No, it’s been a tremendous burden, but the burden’s justbeginning for both sides. I think the city’s got a whole lot toprove that this was justified,” she said. “We stand firm it was notjustified, and it was greedy, and they have a lot to prove tous.”

The 14.4-square-mile approved annexation area will almost triplethe city’s current size, bringing the total area to 21.7 squaremiles.

Gerald also said she felt the annexation’s approval disruptedthe lives and plans of many of the residents of the annexationarea.

“It takes away my whole purpose in the property we bought. Howdo you find relief in that?” she said.

Massengill said the city is glad to have the annexation inplace, though it would have been good if Brookhaven had annexedsmaller portions sooner.

“The city really should have annexed smaller areas in the 80sand 90s, and most cities our size have done so,” he said. “Somesuch as Grenada have annexed larger sizes – they went from sixsquare miles to 30. Our board and various department heads arecommitted to make this a positive move.”

Justices James W. Smith, William L. Waller, George C. Carlson,James E. Graves, and Jess H. Dickinson concurred with the opinion.Associate Justice Michael K. Randolph concurred in result only, andChuck Easley dissented without separate written opinion. JusticeAnn Lamar did not participate in the ruling.