Dozens of Johnson County residents cheered and clapped following a vote to end a plan to increase the size of Trafalgar.
Citing concerns from property owners, the town council approved stopping the annexation, which would have added more than 1,300 acres, mostly along State Road 135, into the town for future development.
“You’re still our neighbors,” town council member Betty Davis said. “And you’re still involved with so many of us. And there are so many things that we need to do to help this area.”
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More than 60 residents attended the meeting, many with signs that read “Say ‘NO’ to Trafalgar annexation.”
Residents opposed the annexation because they didn’t want to pay higher taxes for town services, wanted to be able to continue to live their rural lifestyle and didn’t want to be a part of a town.
Johnson County resident Juanita Frazier said, as a widow on a fixed income, she would struggle to pay higher town taxes. Her husband left her a home in the country, and she wants to live out the rest of her life there, she said.
When she heard the vote to stop the annexation, she cried.
“Hallelujah,” Frazier said. “I just figured it was going to continue on, and it is such a relief to know that maybe I have another 40 years in that home.”
Frazier was one of 26 residents fighting the annexation who pooled their money to hire Franklin attorney Ryan Dillon. If the annexation was approved, the residents planned to fight it by filing a remonstrance. The majority of residents who were affected own farms and specifically wanted to live in the country.
“I’m grateful that the board voted the annexation down. It is unfortunate that property owners were not consulted before this process began,” Johnson County resident Beau Jackson said. “It’s a wonderful outcome. We’re very grateful that they decided to change their mind.”
The town council sent an annexation fiscal plan and tax impact information to residents more than six months ago. According to state law, a town does not need permission from residents before attempting to annex their properties.
The town council initially wanted to approve the annexation before a new state law goes into effect July 1, which requires a lower number of residents to file for a remonstrance — from 65 percent to 51 percent of property owners. The new law also would have required the town to cover any legal fees up to $37,500 if the residents won a remonstrance.
During the past two months, the town council made changes to its initial plans to make any property zoned for agriculture exempt from paying town property taxes. New residents also would have been grandfathered into the town, meaning they would be allowed to keep livestock on their land, even though that is against town rules.
But residents still did not want to be included in the town and attended two recent meetings to ask questions and speak against the plan.
The four town council members present Thursday night — Scott Ray, Davis, David Moore and Eric Woodke — voted to stop the annexation process. Town council president Jeff Eisenmenger was absent from the meeting due to a medical issue.
“The board really listened to the people. I think that was so important,” resident Julie Jackson said.
The town council will not move forward with an annexation, but in the future the council is open to annexing properties voluntarily, Clerk-Treasurer Debra Scott said.
“This whole issue has been laborious and at times acrimonious, and I hate that,” Davis said. “But because annexation is important for a small town, I would hope that in the future it would be viewed more positively and could become perhaps voluntary in areas as we go along.”
The town will be paying about $52,000 to cover their annexation lawyer, legal fees and processing and filing costs, Scott said.