Stop Forced Annexation group

Members of Stop Forced Annexation in Palo Pinto County pose for a photo in front of the Palo Pinto County Elections Office on Tuesday morning before presenting a petition with 2,729 signatures. They hope to call for a Nov. 6 election on deciding whether to make Palo Pinto County a Tier II county. Joining the group was Laura Hester, left, of the group Stop Forced Annexation in Parker County, which is helping with the local effort.

Voters in Palo Pinto and Parker counties overwhelmingly approved propositions designating the counties as Tier II, meaning incorporated cities and towns wanting to accomplish involuntary annexations will have to get voter approval.

In Palo Pinto County, where 9,407 ballots were cast for the Nov. 6 mid-term election, 75 percent of the 8,382 ballots in the Tier II proposition were in favor, with 25 percent opposed. The actual final, but unofficial, totals reported were 6,327-2,055.

"My thanks to all who made our win at the polls possible," stated Mike Wells, who led the effort to put the question before Palo Pinto County voters and promote its passage.

Wells and a group of citizens formed a political action group after the City of Mineral Wells proposed annexing about seven miles south of the city to its water distribution plant.

Stop Involuntary Annexation group holds rally for Tier 2 proposition

Stop Involuntary Annexation in Parker County member Dedra Vick speaks while SIAPC President Laura Hester looks on.

Parker County was ground zero for the Tier II initiative after an effort by the City of Weatherford to annex to the Zion Hill area was met with opposition.

A new state law was introduced for counties with populations above 500,000 to conduct elections for any involuntary annexations. State Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, attached a successful amendment to the bill allowing counties under 500,000 population to decide by election to become a so-called Tier II county.

The proposition in Parker County received 81.13 percent (37,904) votes for Tier II and 18.87 percent (8,816) against.

Texas is among a few states that allows forced annexation, which means a municipality can annex a property against an owner’s will.

“It just said that if 10 percent of the registered voters will sign a petition, then you have an election,” King said in a previous interview. “The [legislative] members responded to it very well and it passed because it was basically saying to let everybody decide at the local level.”

King said before early voting there was support for stopping forced annexation throughout the county, not just in rural areas. Wise, Johnson and Freestone counties also had the proposition on their ballots.

“My expectation is that if all five counties pass it, then the Legislature will take that as an indication that the whole state wants it,” King said. “We’re just leveling the playing field to where the property owner has something to negotiate with and has some authority with this.”

The proposition passed in all five counties. Voters in Wise County approved their Tier II proposition with 77 percent of 19,856 ballots in favor. Johnson County voters also overwhelmingly passed their Tier II vote by a three-to-one margin out of 34,597 ballots cast. Freestone County passed its annexation proposition with 80 percent of the 5,845 ballots cast in favor.

Local liquor option

The city of Mineral Wells went all wet – and not just from the 10 inches of rainfall in October – with Tuesday's election results.

With off-premise liquor sales overwhelmingly approved in 2012, the city was left with its restaurants selling mixed-beverages to patrons having to follow the state's private club regulations. That burdensome and costly administrative requirements and having to ask every patron ordering a mixed drink to provide their driver's license, which was scanned into a database, stored and reported to the state. Establishments had to also a separate non-profit entity and board of directors that contracted with the business to serve alcohol.

That will now change after Mineral Wells voters easily passed doing away with the private club restrictions and opening the city up to liquor-by-the-drink sales at all licensed establishments by a final vote tally of 2,573 for and 756 against.

The Weatherford Democrat contributed to this report.