The Pleasant Hill Town Council voted against de-annexing some 40-plus residential properties at a special council meeting last week.
Council member Franklin Cobos said, “I do not see a compelling reason to de-annex at this time.”
Council member Don Dowdy agreed.
“Under Tennessee law, you can’t just de-annex because you want to. There has to be a good reason,” Dowdy said. “I don’t see that de-annexation is the answer at this time.”
He said since the early days of Pleasant Hill in the late 1800s there has always been a case of “old timers” and newcomers having disagreements about the property.
“It made this town what it is. Can we do better? Yes,” Dowdy said.
He said he was also concerned with the upcoming census and population drop in Pleasant Hill it could have a negative effect on the town’s funding from the state for the next decade.
The council agreed there were areas of improvement the administration could work on to make things better for residents, but many of the concerns and complaints brought forward stemmed from incidents in the past the current council has no control over, they said.
In November, nearly 50 property owners and residents signed a petition in Pleasant Hill stating they want to be de-annexed from the town and presented it to the council after expressing their concerns.
After the November meeting, residents were urged by Pleasant Hill Mayor Lisa Patrick to come to the town hall and express their concerns and issues. Patrick said she and Town Clerk Kellie Dodson went back through records and researched the complaints expressed at the meeting.
“Some of these records go back some 5, 10, 20 and 25 years ago. Kellie has done a phenomenal job in her research looking all of these up,” Patrick said.
The council went through each complaint brought forward by residents at the November meeting and addressed each one individually. The meeting was more than two hours long. No additional complaints were made after the November meeting, according to Dodson.
Many of the complaints were about a burning ordinance, which the council repealed in November. Several other complaints were about the treatment of residents by former administrations and members of the Uplands community. Patrick and the council apologized for past treatment and ensured citizens nobody would be treated with disrespect by the current administration.
“We can not control the behavior of past administrations, and we’re sorry this has happened,” Patrick said.
Other complaints included residents being charged for unnecessary building permits for outbuildings. Patrick apologized for those and admitted the administration was in error and would not make the mistake again.
Residents also said they were concerned about what other ordinances would be put in place in the future by the town council.
Patrick said, “We can’t control the future, and we have no way of knowing what future council actions will take place. We can only control what this administration and council does.”
Patrick and council members urged citizens to become more involved, or even to run for office so they could have a part in the future action of the town council.
Patrick admitted she had an issue with some maintenance complaints — one being that salting and plowing on Sycamore Rd. needed to be improved and the shoulder on Mayland Rd. not being maintained and upgraded when the road was paved.
“We are looking into these complaints and those situations will be addressed in the future,” Patirick said.
Several residents also said that after the ice storm in 2015 the area around Uplands was taken care of and cleared of debris while other areas of the town were not. It appeared as though the Uplands community was receiving preferential treatment, they said.
“After researching this we discovered that Uplands had paid and hired a private company to clean up their area, and it was not the Town of Pleasant Hill that did the work. That is why is was cleared before other areas,” Patrick said.
She added the town’s two staff members took off for two weeks after the ice storm and there was no staff. The majority of the work that was done was performed by volunteer organizations and individuals.
“In looking through all of this, I don’t see anything. We can work through what we can do to improve things, but I can’t see a reason to de-annex. We need to work together for the better of the community,” Peggy Happy, council member, said.
Although the residents want to be de-annexed from the town, it is a lengthy, complicated process, according to the University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Assistance Service handbook.
There are two ways for a city to de-annex territory, both of which are covered under Tennessee Code Annotated 6-51-201.
The first requires three-fourths of voters to approve de-annexation in a referendum following adoption of an ordinance by the town council.
The second is by initiative of the city’s governing body, which would be the Pleasant Hill Town Council. That requires a majority vote. However, a petition of 10% of the voters residing in that area to be de-annexed that is submitted to the city recorder within 75 days of the final reading of the de-annexation ordinance triggers a referendum on the de-annexation. The referendum is held at the “next general election.” Only voters residing in the territory proposed for de-annexation are entitled to vote. It requires a majority vote of those voters to approve the de-annexation, the MTAS manual states.
Patrick said they would also have to validate each person’s address, identity and signature on the petition and verify the de-annexation would not create doughnut holes or irregular boundaries.
She said there were three written requests to be removed from the petition, as well as one verbal request.
After the lengthy discussion and addressing each area of concern brought forward, Dowdy moved the council take no action toward de-annexation at this time. Happy supported the motion and it was unanimously approved.
Patrick and Dodson said residents of Pleasant Hill are urged to contact the administration if they have questions, comments, complaints, issues, concerns or feedback at the Pleasant Hill town hall from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily; by phone at 931-277 3813 during business hours; fax at 931-277-5511; or email — email@example.com.