© 2024 WEKU
Lexington's Radio News Leader
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Year-long effort at reaching consensus on annexation measure culminates in Frankfort

The legislative committee room was full as lawmakers considered annexation legislation 02-28-24
Stu Johnson
The legislative committee room was full as lawmakers considered annexation legislation 02-28-24

Many Kentucky cities have been expanding their boundaries in one form or another ever since municipalities popped up in the Commonwealth. In some parts of Kentucky, where significant growth is occurring, it’s become more of a sticking point.

The topic of city annexation got a hearing this week at the State Capitol.

“Mr. Chairman and committee members after months of debate and meetings over the Task Force on Annexation, the bill that you have before you with the committee sub is a collective effort of both the cities and counties working together to reach a solution,” said Dixon.

That’s how Corydon GOP Representative Jonathan Dixon set the stage for discussion of HB 596. It’s been a year-long process. Mount Vernon GOP Representative Josh Bray’s comment indicates it’s been a challenge.

“I’ve talked with my mayors. I’ve talked with my judges. A comment was made to me over the weekend that kind of summed it up perfectly I thought. A judge had said I’d hoped for more…but I’d expected less,” said Bray.

The provisions of the bill include requiring cities to give 45 days' notice of annexation, requiring 51% of property owners to oppose annexation to stop the process, and revenue-sharing measures. Louisville Democratic Representative Sarah Stalker asked Representative Dixon about a revenue matter.

“I see in here where it outlines..I want to make sure I’m reading this correctly that if the county elects to participate in the development…if they’re putting 50% in, they’re going to get 50% of the revenue..correct? asked Stalker.

 “That is correct to their county rate. So if a county had a rate, say a quarter or a half then it would be relative to their county rate that’s set,” responded Dixon.

Dixon said that would come into play if the two government entities can’t agree beforehand.

Depending upon who you ask, lawmaker or county or city representative, the bill, which passed out of committee, would affect between a dozen or two dozen counties with over 30,000 people.

Kentucky Association of Counties CEO Jim Henderson said the current law doesn’t create any leverage to force conversations.

“So, if you’re a county that has already made decisions to build out infrastructure, to improve services to the unincorporated areas, predicated on revenue that’s gonna come in and then it’s annexed and you lose that revenue or the potential for any new future growth revenue, it created this huge tension, the law created that tension,” said Henderson.

Henderson cites the construction of the $5.8 billion BlueOval battery plant off interstate 65 in Hardin County as a prime example of the issue. He says it makes planning difficult.

“The County is having to make decisions. It’s in the unincorporated area of Hardin County today, several miles south of the existing city boundaries of Elizabethtown. You got county leaders there right now trying to make decisions about how to provide for that growth and that expectation that’s gonna come in that area,” said Henderson.

When fully up and running, the battery plant is expected to employ around 5000 people.

George Bray has been mayor of Paducah for more than three years, and a native of the western Kentucky town. He said cities' hands will be “tied a bit” regarding annexation if the legislation becomes law.

“But I think one of the positive things about it is we have an agreement. There’s been a lot of consternation, a lot of disagreement over the last couple of years and so now we have a product and we need to put the wrangling behind us and we need to get on with running our cities and counties,” said Bray.

Bray noted economic development is at the heart of this effort to bring more industry to all these growth areas of the state.

In addition to Henderson, another key figure at the table has been Kentucky League of Cities Executive Director J.D. Chaney. Calling it a “give and take process,” Chaney said this measure would come into play in relatively few instances. Cities and counties can already work together with inter-local agreements. Chaney said annexation can be a significant impact when it comes to meeting housing challenges.

“Cities with planning and zoning and sewer services, you’re able to fit more houses in a smaller area if you don’t have to have a septic tank. So most of the housing in Kentucky and housing opportunities being developed inside municipal limits because you can get more use of the land,” said Chaney.

Chaney added most citizens want police, fire, parks and playgrounds as part of a community.

What will happen if the bill becomes law? Dan Ison is Shelby County Judge. He said communication with the cities of Shelbyville and Simpsonville is already good. As far as annexation goes, Ison said that’s something that’s hard to predict, but added, quote, “if it does happen, we’ll be able to make it for the best of our community.”

* WEKU is working hard to be a leading source for public service, and fact-based journalism. Monthly supporters are the top funding source for this growing nonprofit news organization. Please join others in your community who support WEKU by making your donation

Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 35 years. His primary beat is Lexington/Fayette government.
WEKU depends on support from those who view and listen to our content. There's no paywall here. Please support WEKU with your donation.
Related Content