By MARTHA McCLAIN
Special to the PRESS
January 15, 2015
A resolution calling for state officials to seek legal means to stop the City of Brownsville from strip annexation was adopted by Laguna Vista council members Tuesday.
Strip annexation is a term used for an annexation by a city, town or other municipality in which it acquires new land that is contiguous to the city, but is only connected to it by a thin strip of land.
The resolution seeks to reverse the annexations that virtually choke the growth of small cities in Cameron County, including Laguna Vista, Rio Hondo, San Benito, Rancho Viejo, Bayview, Port Isabel, Los Indios and Los Fresnos.
In 2013, the cities had requested that Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville) and Rep. Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville) file legislation to push back Brownsville’s boundaries which were extended about 12 years ago. Brownsville agreed to negotiate with the cities, but stopped short of ceasing the practice or reversing the annexations.
In 1999, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 89 which became law. It intended to prohibit a city from abusing the privilege of developing its extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) by annexing small strips of land that extend the city’s ETJ miles from the actual city and making it difficult to provide municipal services.
The resolution states, “The City of Brownsville does not appear to be extending municipal services to the strip annexations, placing a burden on surrounding municipalities …(yet) limits potential growth and development of the Town of Laguna Vista.”
The City of Brownsville’s annexation strategy is contrary to the Legislative intent of state law and the January 2009 findings of the Senate Committee on International Relations and Trade which recommends that Brownsville’s strip annexations have landlocked smaller communities in the Rio Grande Valley, and has selectively bypassed distressed communities and prevented smaller communities from growing.
Town officials are calling on Lucio and Olivera “to take all steps necessary, including, but not limited to filing local bills during the 83rd Legislative Session, to counteract the City of Brownsville’s annexation strategy.”
Laguna Vista City Manager Rolando Vela told the Town Council Tuesday that “there is no real development taking place on the northern part of the county due to these Brownsville strips.” He said he hopes other small cities join in the effort in urging stronger legislation to stop and reverse Brownsville’s annexation strategy.
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