Desoto County fights sweeping annexation plan by Olive Branch

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OLIVE BRANCH, Miss. — Supervisors in a north Mississippi county have voted to deepen their opposition to a sweeping annexation plan being pursued by one of the county’s cities.

DeSoto County supervisors filed an objection Tuesday in DeSoto County Chancery Court opposing Olive Branch’s plans to take in 14,000 new residents in a 50-square mile area. The Olive Branch Board of Alderman voted unanimously on Nov. 20 to pursue annexation and the city filed its petition on Dec. 10.

Supervisors this week also voted 5-0 to direct their lawyer to work with state lawmakers to change state law to reduce Olive Branch’s power to annex the land.

Lewisburg resident Jaime Ross was one person who spoke to supervisors opposing the plan.

“We like our way of life and we don’t feel like Olive Branch can offer us anything for the tax burden it’s going to come with,” Ross said.

Olive Branch estimates a home valued at $160,000 would pay $616 in city property taxes.

If the court ultimately approved, its land area would more than double from 37 square miles to 87 square miles. Olive Branch’s population would rise from 37,000 to about 51,000, which would make it Mississippi’s fourth most-populous city, just behind Southaven, a fellow Mississippi suburb of Memphis, Tennessee.

The city proposes to take in land in the Lewisburg, Center Hill, Pleasant Hill, Bridgetown and Cedar View communities. Its boundaries would push far south, beyond part of the new Interstate 269 beltway that runs through DeSoto County, an area where already rapid development is projected to intensify with the highway’s opening last year. Olive Branch also wants to annex a smaller area going east to the Marshall County line.

In a handout promoting annexation, the city says it would be its first major annexation since 1996. Olive Branch says it has spent millions extending utilities to proposed annexation areas, and that it’s already the primary fire department for some of the territory. In its court petition, Olive Branch promises improvements within 5 years to streets, drainage, water, sewer, street lights “where necessary and economically feasible and legally permissible.” It also promises new fire and police facilities.

City officials say residents could see homeowners insurance premiums decrease with a full-time fire department, that police protection would improve, and that continuing growth could be limited without city-level services.

Supervisor Michael Lee disagreed with that contention, saying the county is already providing services. More than 2,600 people have signed a petition opposing the plan.

“Everything that they’re asking or that they’re wanting to take in we already provide in the county,” Lee said.

The case is scheduled for its first hearing in DeSoto County Chancery Judge Percy Lynchard Jr. on April 17. State law directs a chancery judge to approve an annexation if it is “required by the public convenience and necessity” and a city can extend services in a reasonable time. A judge can alter the boundaries proposed by a city. Because the boundaries of Southaven and Hernando are within 3 miles of the proposed annexation, they are listed as defendants in the case.

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