Annexation and the Right to Vote (or lack thereof)
I live on a farm south of Kansas City. The surrounding area is mostly rural with few developments and with one, two, & larger acreage lots. Open farmland is the norm here, as people like myself moved to the country to live a life free from city restrictions against having livestock, too many dogs, or shooting sports. We pay our taxes, and until recently we were very satisfied with the services Johnson County provided.
Then came the annexation....
The city of Overland Park, Kansas, petitioned the Johnson County Board of Commissioners to annex 15 square miles of farmland, my farm included, into their city. This was by far the largest annexation land-grab in the history of the State of Kansas. The only problem was LANDOWNERS DID NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO VOTE on whether or not we wanted to be annexed. We landowners were not buying it...their largess was too much for us. Kansas law provides that only the County Commissioners may vote on annexation, not the citizens whose property is at stake. This law is similar to the state's eminent domain laws, in which the government can take your land whether you like it or not. (These laws were recently strengthened on the citizen's behalf.)
So we did what American citizens do: we went to work, trying to convince the Commissioners to vote against Overland Park's annexation. We sent out a questionnaire to the 530 homes [yes, that's all] in the 15 square mile area and asked one question: do you want to be annexed by Overland Park, Kansas? 80% of residents responded and of those 98% said NO they did not want to be annexed.
With this survey in hand we went publicly to the Commissioners and asked them to vote against the annexation, because the landowners said overwhelmingly that they didn't want to be annexed.
It was all in vain, as the Commissioners voted 5-1 for the annexation, albeit a reduced or partial annexation area of 8.3 square miles gerrymandering a slim sliver of land (the shape of a basketball backboard with an attached post, if you will) to include a proposed commercial development well south of the existing Overland Park boundary. Ah, politics...the developers and the Commissioners have their cozy little deals, and the landowning citizens have no recourse by vote and are left out in the dark.
So, a group of us took Overland Park and Johnson County to District Court, in a lawsuit which claimed mismanagement of the process. Recently we lost on decision, but are going to continue our fight through the Appeals process.
Our coalition has also tried, but failed, to have Kansas Annexation Law changed to include a vote by the citizens whose lands are at stake, but with no luck. 44 OTHER STATES have laws which allow their landowners the direct vote on the future of their property, but Kansas does not. Kansas' reasoning is that if it's citizens are given the right to vote on annexation, then no city expansion will EVER happen. If 44 other states allow citizen voting, then I don't understand it, do you? As much as I have traveled this great land, I have never seen cities being prevented from reasonable annexation for expansion by the outlying landowners. No, I believe reasonable annexation goes on everywhere, but not in our area in southern Johnson County, Kansas. We don't have the right to vote on this unreasonable expansion, because of government fiat.
This process has been time consuming, frustrating, and expensive. We are literally fighting CITY HALL, THEIR LOBBYISTS, AND THEIR TAXPAYER FUNDED BANK OF LAWYERS. In addition, we're fighting the well funded (by Kansas taxpayers AND developers) Kansas LOBBYISTS who are fighting us tooth and nail to prevent changes to Kansas annexation law, preventing the affected citizens from having the right to vote. They want their power unchallenged. We want ours back.
We are not finished. We are continuing the fight. We are on the right side of this issue.
If you are so inclined to help us out in our efforts to have this fundamental right to vote returned to us, please send your non tax-deductable contribution to:
No to Annexation Coalition
PO Box 31
Stilwell, Kansas 66085
Your contribution will be used wisely.