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 bringing 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 and/or without existing infrastructure to provide reliable and affordable services to residents or potential residents.
This is sometimes 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, 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
What is Malind Pointe?
Malind Pointe is a 182-acre Planned Unit Development in Southern Beaufort County.
Previously, the PUD’s were known as Osprey Village (R00 013 000 0006 0000) and River Oaks (R600 013 000 008C 0000). Beaufort County approved these PUDs in 2008.
In December 2017, developers went before Beaufort County Planning Commission to discuss PUD amendments; they asked to provide additional information, including traffic analyses.
On May 9, 2018, the developer asked for annexation and rezoning in the City of Hardeeville. The planning commission gave preliminary approval to the rezoning and the request was passed on to City Council for consideration. Fortunately, the City of Hardeeville and Beaufort County compromised and the annexation was tabled.
What are the issues?
- Stormwater: The Okatie River headwaters are east of the property and any development here will have a significant impact to the headwaters of the Okatie. 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, the 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.
- 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 16 parcels and over 700 acres on the Okatie River; thus the County has an interest in what development takes place alongside the River. The PUD in 2008 resulted in zoning that would not be possible with the Beaufort County Community Development Code today. The PUD created a bypass for the Beaufort comprehensive plan and base zoning guidelines. In December 2017, when the PUD was before Beaufort Planning Commission, we suggested that amendments to the development today are an opportunity to promote development that is better aligned with the Beaufort comprehensive plan for growth. To be clear, we do not believe low-density suburban sprawl development, with a monoculture of single-family homes generating single-occupancy vehicle trips, is the viable alternative. For this reason, we encouraged staff and developers to consider the ways a true village area can be knit together with surrounding development. A single-family residential development with homogenous lot sizes does not accomplish these goals. Intense growth pressures in Jasper County, including the newly proposed East Argent development, make it even more important that Beaufort County (and Hardeeville) think critically about how and where it develops within this watershed.
- Connected transportation: More options to access the neighborhood and navigate within the neighborhood by car, bike and foot to increase internal trip capture and not overcrowd neighborhood streets or Highway 170 should exist.