City annexes Gibbs Ranch

The city of Huntsville annexed the SHSU Gibbs Ranch during a city council meeting last Tuesday.During the monthly city council meeting Oct. 8, the city voted to annex five new areas in Walker County into the city limits. The land added to the city is all public land, and Huntsville will use it to increase its extraterritorial jurisdiction.The ETJ is a buffer zone around Huntsville that allows the city room to develop land, as well as be able to annex further land in the future.Frank Krystianak, SHSU director of Public Relations, said the city chose the Gibbs Ranch because citizens did not occupy it.”It was one way to extend their extraterritorial jurisdiction without having anyone else to serve,” said Krystianak.The school did not protest the city’s desire to annex the land.”We worked very close with city on many projects, and we were very happy to be a part of it,” said Krystianak.Krystianak said the city did not pay for the land, and the land is still owned by the school.Huntsville City Planner Scott Murray said the city of Huntsville decided to annex public government-owned lands after citizens of neighboring Timberwild and Northgate Meadows voiced their desire to not be part of the city.”One reason we decided to annex this land is because we had a public meeting, and a lot of people voice their opinion that they did not wish to be annexed,” said Murray.Murray said the city’s desire to annex the land will not benefit it immediately, but is part of a long-term plan to prepare for the future. He also said the annexation only makes the land part of the city of Huntsville, but land ownership does not change hands, although development policies are altered.”Just because we annex it, doesn’t mean we own it,” said Murray. “But if Sam Houston decides to develop something, it must come up to city code.”Despite such policy changes, Murray said there were no complaints from the school or other landholders about the annexation.”We’ve had to no negative response from the National Forest, Huntsville State Park, or Sam Houston,” said Murray.Murray said there would be no new taxes on the lands since it is all government land and therefore tax exempt, and that most people will not notice the difference.A new annexation law is to take effect in January of next year. Murray said the law is one of the ways cities are regulated to keep from just “gobbling up” the surrounding communities.According to the new rules, a city must state its desire to annex a community at least three years in advance, and must provide services to bring the infrastructure to code within the three years. If the city does not comply within the three years, the community can de-annex itself and will not be eligible for annexation again for another seven years.Murray said Huntsville mostly desires to annex land that does not require development, because otherwise, the city will pay millions of dollars to bring a community up to city standards that will only contribute a few thousand dollars a year in tax revenues.”It’s easier for us to annex land that is not occupied, because you don’t have to put in the infrastructure,” said Murray.Along with the Gibbs Ranch, the city also added a part of the Huntsville Municipal Airport in the Northgate Meadows subdivision, three tracts of U.S. forestland near the Fish Hatchery, one tract of U.S. forestland near Huntsville State Park and another adjacent to Elkins Lake.

Leave a Reply