When the City of Olive Branch recently put forward its plans to annex into the city areas of Center Hill, Pleasant Hill, Bridgetown, Lewisburg and Cedar View communities that are in the unincorporated parts of DeSoto County, not everyone seemed excited about the idea.
The disappointment and in some cases outrage over the city’s move was expressed in comments made to the DeSoto Times-Tribune’s story and Facebook posts from those affected.
“We live on retirement and social security and have almost 10 acres of land and house, commented Martha Boren. “We cannot afford for our taxes to go up. This is an awful thing you are trying to do to senior citizens.”
“It is all about I-269 and gaining as much access they can get to it,” added Lynn Brown on Facebook. “They don’t care about the people or the drop in property prices. I have no desire to be in Olive Branch. I prefer the county.”
Led by Pleasant Hill area resident Spring Taylor, opponents of the annexation move are trying to rally support for their side. Taylor, who said she gets fire protection from the Bridgetown Fire Department and law enforcement coverage from the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department, has started a petition drive to fight the move.
Mayor Scott Phillips, in announcing the Board of Aldermen’s vote to start annexation proceedings for the addition of 50 square miles of land and 14,000 residents, said the decision was part of more than 20 years work. City officials state they have put millions of dollars adding utilities during the past two decades, investments that they said have helped double the area’s population.
Still, Taylor said she was shocked the vote happened.
“It was a surprise to everyone,” Taylor said. “You kind of feel a little offended because we weren’t notified of anything. It was very surprising. We do know it had been in the works for years, but even the county supervisors we have spoken to were not aware they were doing this vote when they did it.”
The last time Olive Branch expanded was in 1996, when the city’s boundary moved west to meet Southaven at Malone Road.
Taylor, like others who may become part of Olive Branch is effort is successful, said she and her neighbors are worried about higher taxes and lower property values.
“The taxes will at minimum double and for some people it will more than double,” Taylor estimates. “If you look the housing value inside the city now opposed to what it was 10-15 years ago, the value has gone down in those subdivisions that are right there in the city.”
City officials were quick to point out, however, that Olive Branch ad valorem taxes remain the lowest among the four major DeSoto County cities.
According to Taylor, at least 2,600 people have signed her online petition, which is on the change.org website, as of Wednesday afternoon. She said she is making paper versions of the petition to continue her fight in person door-to-door.
Ahead on the issue is the city’s filing of its plans to DeSoto County Chancery Court, but Taylor said she believed a public hearing on the proposal must also be held.
“We’ve gotten an overwhelming response of people that want to know when that hearing is and we want to be there to voice our opinion,” Taylor said. “We feel very undervalued and just the fact that it was done without any knowledge.”
Olive Branch City Attorney Bryan Dye said in an email Wednesday a public hearing is not part of the petition process to the Chancery Court. The filing by the city initiates the formal court proceedings, but the petition cannot be filed until the minutes of the Nov. 20 meeting are approved by the Board of Aldermen.
When that petition is filed, the Chancery Court sets a “Return Hearing” at a date and time certain but usually within 60-90 after the petition has been filed.
That hearing is not an actual trial, but it is the opportunity for people, including objectors, to enter an appearance in the court proceedings.
Dye said it is common for the Chancellor to enter a Scheduling Order and also set the matter for trial at a future date, sometimes 9-12 months after the return hearing.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.