City Limits

How serious is the fight by suburbs to limit the annexation power of cities? It’s become a matter of life and death. In Kingwood, which was recently swallowed by Houston, opponents of annexation are blaming several deaths in the area on slow response time by Houston ambulances. Annexation is also a question of money. The Humble Independent School District has complained to a legislative committee that complying with Houston ordinances and codes cost it $3.7 million last year. In Austin, meanwhile, residents of the Circle C subdivision charge that annexation depressed property values in the area. All this points to a no-holds-barred attack by suburbs in the next legislative session: Kingwood and Circle C want to be de-annexed, while other suburban groups want to require that if suburbs enjoy better services than cities (such as shorter EMS response time), the city must meet or beat that level of service—at the city’s expense. Still more proposals call for residents of areas up for annexation to vote on whether they want to become part of the city. Guess what? They won’t want to.

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