On Thursday, dozens of Bell County residents rallied and spoke against a proposed annexation of their properties to Nolanville.
At least 21 residents chanted and held signs outside of Nolanville’s City Hall before the last public hearing on the matter was held.
One of the signs read “involuntary annexation is extortion.”
These residents have some of the 98 properties that would become part of the city. Under a proposed annexation plan, property owners would pay $505.40 every year in city taxes for a house valued at $100,000 by the Bell County Appraisal District.
The residents living in annexed properties would have city services, such as police, fire, emergency services and street maintenance.
Several residents on Wayne Drive have expressed their disapproval of the plan because they say they already receive services offered by Bell County.
James Billbery, council member for city council position 5, said the fire department and emergency services located in Nolanville, respond to the properties that would be annexed, if other agencies need assistance.
Wayne Drive resident Irene Andrews has started collecting signatures requesting the city to allow the residents impacted by the annexation plan to vote on the matter. The petition states property owners were not allowed to vote during municipal elections, which determined the members of the city council, that would ultimately vote on the annexation.
During the public hearing, which was standing room only, Andrews spoke before the council.
"The reason we wrote these signs is because we want you to listen. We want you to read. We want you to listen. We feel like we're not being heard. I brought my own [American] flag tonight because I feel forced annexation is un-American,” said Andrews.
She added the petition to allow Bell County residents to vote had already 100 signatures and would be sent to the council soon.
At least three residents who addressed the council told them if the annexation went through, they will not re-elect them for that position.
Most of the residents during the public hearing opposed the annexation, mentioning they lived on a fixed income, didn't see a benefit from the addition, or didn't want certain city regulations.
“The money is not the problem. It’s just when you star being part of the city limits, you start being imposed other things. You can’t do this, you can’t do that,” said Bell County resident Wayne Butler. “The money hurts, don’t get me wrong.”
Mary Pena, former Nolanville Mayor Pro-Tem, who was the only person who spoke in favor of the annexation said the city needs to be run as a business.
“This should’ve been done way before when. Thank you for moving forward because this city is going to die, if you don’t annex property. It would turn into Harker Heights or Belton,” said Pena.
Billbery said the annexation is part of a comprehensive plan for Nolanville, which makes sure the city grows in a proper way, while covering health, safety, maintenance, facilities to offer to the citizens.
"We want whatever we do, not to be a reflection of what was going on in the past,” said Billbery. “We understand Nolanville has not had an illustrious past and what we are trying to do is make sure people understand we don't want to be part of that either."
Resident Bobby Norton who owns Norton’s Automotive, a property under the proposed annexation plan, said he wants his business to remain in Bell County.
"I don't want this annexation. I don't want my business in any way, shape or form affiliated with Nolanville, Texas because of the bad reputation for the past years. None to your fault. This was before your [time]. My address is Belton,” said Norton.
Another concern brought up by residents, included keeping properties for agriculture use.
City Manager Kara Escajeda addressed the concern regarding properties that fall under non-conform uses, such as agriculture, by saying lawful uses of structures at the time of the annexation may continue, even if they’re not permitted by the current city ordinance. She said the Zoning and Planning committee will make zoning recommendations and the city council will make a determination within the 90 days of the annexation ordinance.
Billbery said if Nolanville does not annex these properties, and the Extraterritorial Jurisdiction were to be dissolved, other cities nearby with higher taxes could add them. ETJ is an area near Nolanville only the city can annex.
Billberry said the council will look at the petition submitted by the citizens and address the residents’ concerns moving forward.
The city council is expected to make a decision on the annexation in May.
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