Board votes to annex alderman

Friday, May 15, 2009

PETERSBURG - The Board of Mayor and Alderman voted Monday to annex the portion of an appointed alderman's property beyond the town line where his house is located.

Five of the seven-man Board voted to annex the house owned by Ricky Wright. He was appointed by the Board on Dec. 15 when he succeeded Alderman Tony Nichols who was ousted.

Wright abstained from voting on the first of three required votes for an ordinance to annex his house. He also abstained late last month when the rest of his fellow town planning commissioners voted to recommend his annexation request. Alderman John Cowden also serves on the Planning Commission with Corey Smith and Chairwoman Linda Mulliniks.

During Monday night's Board meeting, Alderman Brad Dillenback cast the lone vote against Wright's annexation ordinance. It was brought to a vote on a motion by Cowden. Voting with him were Mayor James Owen and Aldermen Kenneth Boles, Phillip McMillian and Kenneth Richardson.

Two more public votes are required for such an ordinance to become law. The governing bodies of most municipalities hold a public hearing before the final vote.

There was brief discussion after the first vote on Monday about the town's urban growth boundary. Such lines are drawn by a coordinating committee. Since Wright's property is in the Lincoln County part of the border town, the committee with jurisdiction has met in Fayetteville where the Elk Valley Times has reported that committee was disbanded in March because its membership was composed out of compliance with Section 1101 of the state law on planning and annexation.

While Dillenback noted that means the "old UGB (Urban Growth Boundary) stays," annexation is always of land adjacent to a municipal border. UGBs are required to give landowners notice that a nearby municipality has authority to annex.

Wright owns 19.6 acres on Orchard Cemetery Road. It's bisected by the town line, but his mail box and address are within the town limits. That apparently led various officials to conclude that he lives in town and was therefore eligible to serve as an alderman.

In Lewisburg last year, officials concluded that a woman couldn't be a successful candidate for the county school board because while her mail box was in the school board district that she wanted to represent, her home was outside the district. He district line goes between her home and her mailbox.

Another aspect of the situation in Petersburg is that a majority of the aldermen voted to oust Nichols when he was absent from a special-called meeting held for a specific purpose that didn't include ouster on the agenda. That is interpreted as meaning that Nichols wasn't removed from office, according to opinions explained last winter by Don Darden, a municipal management consultant with the University of Tennessee's Municipal Technical Advisory Service.

Nichols' ouster couldn't be legal anyway, Darden said. There's no ouster provision in the town charter. Without an ouster procedure in the charter, Darden said, the town's alternative is to use the state law that removed former Smyrna Mayor Sam Ridley as a result of a Rutherford County Chancery Court case in the 1980s.

Darden, an experienced MTAS official who consulted with two long-time state lawyers about residency requirements for aldermen, said "The two legal consultants, attorneys with MTAS, said that what matters is where you lay your head at night." That's the common law that, in MTAS officials' opinions, means Wright isn't eligible to be an alderman.