It appears the federal court wants no part in hearing a challenge to Tennessee’s annexation law. We can’t say that we blame U.S. District Judge Leon Jordan for his reluctance to weigh in on what is clearly a state and local matter.
“While plaintiffs have filed this action pursuant to [an] alleged violation of their rights under the United States Constitution, they have not identified specifically what right or constitutional amendment is allegedly violated by defendants’ actions,” Jordan wrote in decision handed down in Knoxville.
The plaintiffs the judge was referring to are the residents in Gray who are involved in both the Suncrest Drive annexation, which the City Commission already had approved, and the Bobby Hicks Highway/Airport Road annexation, which has stalled in a 2-2 vote.
It was nearly two decades ago when Tennessee lawmakers approved a smart growth law that governs when and where cities and towns can expand. The law established urban growth boundaries for all municipalities and counties in Tennessee.
It’s both appropriate and permissible under state law for Johnson City to control its urban growth boundaries along the Bobby Hicks Highway corridor. These are the areas where Johnson City is growing. As such, the city has a duty to see that the development is orderly and sound.
Johnson City must be at the forefront of how these important gateways to the city are developed. And we must never forget that there are property owners in these areas who want to be a part of Johnson City so they can receive essential services they can’t get from their county government.