By Andre James, Correspondent
On the evening of Oct. 31, Bell County residents met with members of Belton City Council at the Harris Community Center for the second public hearing on the possible annexation of 1,358 acres across four different areas. According to city officials, the majority of this land will be used for existing and future road and thoroughfare projects, expanding BISD and the needed infrastructure to do so, and water and waste management projects, including an elevated water tank to be completed by June 30, 2020.
Of the 27 residents that spoke at the hearing, all of them were against annexation, with most saying that if they wanted to live in Belton and be subject to its municipal services, they would’ve moved inside the city limits.
The main concern for some residents is the raise in taxes and the negative effects it will have on their standard of living. One citizen said that 60 percent of the people around his area are 60 or older and with their fixed income (retirement) might face losing their homes.
“I’ve been fighting like crazy to be able to retire,” said Dottie Brooks. “My husband has been retired for five or six years. I’d like to be able to do some things with him when that happens.”
Area 3, which is 447 acres along Auction Barn Road, and Area 2, 847 acres south of Auction Barn Road are the areas from which the largest protests are coming from. There are development agreements available to 89 of the 226 residents. These agreements prevent annexation as long as the area isn’t developed.
Others are worried and angry about how the city is handling development agreements. Even though the city has said that listed properties are only up for consideration, Bell County residents feel like they’re being forced to commit to Development agreements even though the city might not decide to annex their land. Currently, residents are being told as per the letters sent out Oct. 25 that they can either accept the development agreement as printed or decline and risk annexation.
“A question was asked a little while ago about what’s changed in the last three months,” said Wayne Crook. “The only thing that’s changed is state law.”
This is a reference to Senate Bill 6, which goes into effect December this year, and would allow residents of counties with a population 500,000 or more to vote against annexation. Currently, Bell County would be exempt from this law, however like other small counties could gain access if 10 percent of the voters sign a petition to hold an election on the matter and it wins.
The Belton Independent School district is planning for a new high school in this area. They purchased the land this year. There have been three new high schools built in Bell County in the past 20-years.