What is annexation?
Annexation is the legal process used by municipalities to expand their borders, bringing additional land under the municipality’s governance. Annexations have been used to grow the populations of urban centers throughout history.
How are properties annexed?
In South Carolina, landowners must initiate annexation via petition. The land must be contiguous with the municipality.
What is “contiguity”?
A property is contiguous to a municipality if it is adjacent to and shares a continuous border with land already in the municipality. Under South Carolina law, contiguity still exists if the property to be annexed is separated from the municipality by a road, water or marsh.
When to annex:
Municipalities should use annexation to bring areas of the county under city control where it makes sense.
For example, municipalities should annex areas known as “doughnut holes.” Doughnut holes are areas that remain under county governance but are surrounded on all sides by city property. In short, they are islands of county land in the middle of the city. Providing services such as water, sewer and garbage pick-up proves costly and highly inefficient for the county to continue providing. It is fiscally and logistically prudent to bring these properties under municipal rule.
Annexation can also be useful to bring land that is within the city’s growth boundary under its control. If done thoughtfully, annexation allows cities to grow in an intelligent way within their urban growth boundary.
When not to annex:
Unwise annexations occur when a municipality annexes properties in remote, rural areas outside of urban growth boundaries. This means new infrastructure, sometimes including sewer and water, must be built into the rural area. This type of annexation is typically pursued when a municipality promises a landowner an upzoning, allowing for more development than the county would allow. Often times, this goes against the comprehensive plan and can undermine regional planning best efforts.
This is referred to as “zoning shopping.” Speculative developers promise a larger tax base if annexed and upzoned into a municipal boundary. Time and again municipalities annex these properties only to be stuck with escalating water, sewer, EMS, fire, police, and transportation costs and the county is left with a compromised rural area, or misguided development within their county area.
Suburban development outside of urban centers simply does not pay for itself. Studies show that for every dollar of property tax revenue generated, it costs $1.16 to provide public services to that rural home. It is no wonder city coffers are at an all-time low as municipalities struggle to service sprawling development far from their community’s core.
Why do municipalities annex properties?
Annexation is an effective tool for municipalities to grow efficiently. However, too often annexations are ill-advised and unwise if outside an urban growth boundary
Annexation Proposal for the Cooler and Shining Ivory Tracts
What’s there now?
The proposed annexation of nearly 140 acres is comprised of two tracts of land.
- The 40+ acre Shining Ivory tract is in Jasper County. It is a small portion of a large tract that is currently under a development agreement between the owners and Jasper County. The development agreement would allow for retail, office space, and light industrial uses on the Jasper county side of 170. This parcel is critical in achieving contiguity with the Beaufort County tracts.
- The currently undeveloped 95+ acre Cooler Tract is in Beaufort County. It is surrounded by the Oldfield community on three sides and is zoned T2 Rural, which allows for a housing density of one unit per three acres. This would allow for a maximum of 31 single-family homes.
For both of these tracts, the current zoning is approved by their respective counties and is a part of existing land use and transportation planning for the region. The developer and the city of Hardeeville are trying to change that.
The current proposed development is a 200+ home residential community with space for commercial buildings. It only addresses plans for a portion of the total annexation properties, the Beaufort County Cooler tracts. The development will be accessible with one road serving as both an entrance and exit from Highway 170. An extension of utilities and emergency services will be needed to service the proposed community. For full packet materials, click here.
What are the issues?
- Transportation: The intersection of Hwy 170 and Hwy 462 is a currently failing intersection for traffic standards. Beaufort and Jasper County have been investing in regional efforts to study the corridor and determine solutions to address issues and growth. Annexing these properties into Hardeeville will take the control of the corridor out of the hands of Beaufort and Jasper counties. Developing them will only compound the issues the Counties are working to solve. Any development at this crucial intersection should conform to the long-term improvements proposed in the multi-jurisdictional study to accommodate future growth in the surrounding municipalities.
- Stormwater: Major freshwater wetlands exist on the site that drain into the Malind Creek and ultimately into the Okatie River. The river’s declining health has been well documented and studied, and the Okatie is currently protected by a set of Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) regulations to ensure its continued or improved health in the future. If we set the expectation that the health of the Okatie River headwaters is important, then stormwater systems and development nearby need to meet those expectations in their design, capture and treatment of stormwater and/or failure to generate stormwater in the first place. Development of this nature inevitably generates stormwater, so how it is addressed must be of the highest quality or development plans should be rearranged potentially with rights transferred or reduced to reduce the total volume generated. Developers should, at a minimum, adhere to the new, strengthened stormwater management practices of the Southern Lowcountry Stormwater Ordinance and Design Manual.
- Land Use: Although they can be helpful, improved stormwater improvements alone may not steady or improve the overall water quality in the Okatie. To date, Beaufort County has protected 21 parcels and over 900 acres on the Okatie River; thus the County has an interest in what development takes place alongside the River. The proposed development will result in zoning that would not be possible with the Beaufort County Community Development Code today. It will create a bypass for the Beaufort comprehensive plan and base zoning guidelines, which currently only allows 31 residential units on the tract, and will overburden nearby schools. Intense growth pressures in Jasper County, make it even more important that Beaufort County (and Hardeeville) think critically about how and where it develops within this watershed.
Examples of Annexations that undermine regional planning