Alderman requests annexation of his home

Friday, April 24, 2009

PETERSBURG - Planning commissioners here are recommending that the home and immediately adjacent property of an appointed town alderman be annexed by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

Alderman Ricky Wright was appointed by the Board on Dec. 15 to succeed Alderman Tony Nichols, although it's been revealed that the town line goes through Wright's property and his home is beyond the boundary.

Tuesday evening, Wright asked the planning commissioners to accept his request for annexation of the rest of his property, including his home, and recommend annexation of that part of his 19.6-acre tract into the city, according to Planning Commission Chairwoman Linda Mulliniks.

"He'd started to apply before, but he didn't have all the documents to make the request," Mulliniks said.

Questions arose about Wright's residency, and therefore eligibility to serve as an alderman, were raised in January when a long-time employee of the University of Tennessee Municipal Technical Advisory Service said residency is established by "where you lay your head at night." City officials sided with an interpretation they quoted from the Lincoln County Election Commission Office that contends that Wright is eligible to vote in city elections because his address is in the city.

Another question raised about Wright's eligibility to be an alderman now is based on the contention that Nichols couldn't have been ousted by the Board because there's no ouster provision in the town charter, and that removal of an elected official should be done through the Chancery Court.

Now, the Planning Commission is recommending that the Town Board conduct a public hearing on whether Wright's home should be annexed. The hearing could be at the Board's next monthly meeting which is scheduled for May 12, the second Tuesday of next month, Mulliniks said.

Serving on the commission with Muliniks are Wright and Alderman John Cowden. Mulliniks said Wright didn't vote on his request for annexation.

Among the issues were considered by the commission Tuesday were the facts that: Annexation will create no additional cost to the city; it will create a revenue stream from more property tax payments by Wright, and; during the 20-year growth planning process, the Coordinating Committee decided against splitting parcels of land, thereby making Wright's annexation consistent with that policy.

Also Tuesday, city planers considered broad concepts for land use to preserve opportunities for property owners, Mulliniks said. That's not zoning. It's a management tool so town planers can be proactive on development issues, instead of just reacting to requests for rezoning, site plan approval that would lead to a construction permit, or other such administrative tasks.

Town codes were also discussed, the chairwoman said.

"The concern is for the appearance of the town," she said. "Some of the houses and yards are not being maintained."

Planners recommend action by the town board, she said.

Elsewhere, some municipalities have enacted ordinances to prevent "demolition by neglect," so that slow deterioration of a property will not detract from other land owners' property values. It's also seen as a way to maintain appearances.

In a similar move, Chapel Hill's Board of Mayor and Aldermen adopted ordinances that created a special panel to enforce maintenance of vacant lots. It was in conjunction with that town's desire to fulfill standards recommended by the state's Three Star Program as administered by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.