Memphis City Council to consider de-annexing two areas from city

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis City Council took the first step Tuesday toward shrinking the city limits.

Members of the council's Government Affairs and Annexation Committee voted to send a resolution to the full council that would start the de-annexation process for two areas.

If approved after three readings and a public hearing, the ordinance could be in effect by May, and those areas would revert to Shelby County control at a date to be determined.

Those areas are:

  • Eads, a 3.4-square-mile strip along the south edge of Highway 64, from Cobb Road to the Fayette County line. City COO Doug McGowen said only 172 people live in the area and it is a difficult area for city police and fire to serve. Memphis spends more there than it collects in revenues, he said.
  • Riverbottoms, an unpopulated and undeveloped 13 square miles in the southwest corner of the state along the Mississippi border.

The city began exploring deannexation in 2016 after the state legislature nearly passed a law that would have allowed areas annexed after 1998 to deannex themselves by referendum. For Memphis, that could have led to a 20 percent population decrease and a loss of millions in tax revenue, city leaders said.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and leaders of other Tennessee cities implored the legislature to give them time to respond. Memphis and Shelby County formed a task force that eventually targeted seven areas for potential voluntary de-annexation by the city. Shelby County would be cosponsoring a similar resolution, Strickland said.

“The bottom line is, we’ve done exactly what we promised to do," he said.

Eads and Riverbottoms were picked as the first two areas because they are sparsely populated. If successful, McGowen said, the city would move on to the more densely populated areas targeted by the de-annexation commission, including Southwind-Windyke and South Cordova.

City Councilman Frank Colvett said shrinking the city made good fiscal sense for the city, which could save money by shifting services to the county.

“The city has been in the annexation business forever," he said. "This is a good first step.”