The Keene City Council — by a 3-2 vote on all counts — voted on Wednesday to annex four parcels of land totalling about 403 acres.

The packed council chamber held several residents of the areas annexed who were less than pleased with the votes.

Councilmen John Ackermann, Robert Bischoff and Eddie Kirkpatrick voted to approve all four annexation proposals.

Council members Chad Aden and Cheryl Schram voted against all four proposals.

Before the council addressed the parcels under consideration for annexation, Schram said she would not vote to annex any of the parcels during Wednesday’s meeting.

“First, let me say that my sole reason for voting against these annexations at this time is that I feel very strongly that there has not been enough information gathered yet regarding the financial impact of such a move,” Schram said. “To me, it is just not clear what this type of move will cost the city, or what we will gain financially by taking these areas in right now. But I am well aware that we have every right to annex each of the areas on the agenda tonight.

“Second, if the annexation of any or all of these areas does not pass tonight, you can expect that I will be in support of the annexation of any or all of these and other areas within our extra territorial jurisdiction and our proper legal reach in the future if I feel that it is beneficial to the city of Keene.”

After the meeting, Aden said he wanted more information on how the annexations would benefit Keene and the residents annexed.

Aden also referred to the Dec. 10 public hearings town officials held to address the proposals.

Fifty-one people spoke at those hearings, all but one voicing opposition.

“Having only one person at the public hearings speak in favor of it, and everyone else against shows where the citizens stand,” Aden said. “If people supported and wanted this, they would have been at the public hearings to say so, and been here tonight.”

Bischoff also spoke before the council voted on the annexation proposals.

He said that several areas under consideration already receive Keene services, such as sewer and fire service, sentiments Schram apparently agreed with.

“What I have found is that annexation is also a means of ensuring that residents and businesses outside a city’s corporate limits who benefit from access to the city’s facilities and services share the tax burden associated with constructing and maintaining those facilities and services,” Schram said. “This is certainly the case with some of tonight’s proposed annexations.”

Less than hoped for

Keene officials initially planned to annex seven parcels totaling more than 800 acres.

Several residents, both of Keene and the areas under consideration, filed suit in the 18th District Court in an attempt to halt all the annexations.

Judge John Neill ruled they did not have standing to file suit on the four parcels located within Keene’s ETJ.

Neill issued a temporary injunction last week enjoining the city from moving forward to annex the remaining three parcels. Those parcels, Neill said, lie outside Keene’s ETJ.

City officials said in recent months that Keene needs to annex property to keep from being encroached upon by other cities and to have room to grow and develop.

Some residents argued the city cannot afford to take on the new areas and provide the necessary services.

Several residents in the areas annexed said they chose to live in the county to escape city regulations and taxes.

Several of those residents spoke during Wednesday’s meeting.

“I feel this is being forced on me, and it’s going to cost me about $1,500 a year extra in taxes,” said resident Norm Martin. “Sometimes I have brush to burn. Now that’s going to cost $35 to get a permit. Can you at least give us a moratorium on that?

“What are we getting out of this? You could at least try to sell it to us and tell us what benefits we’re going to get.”

Another resident, Mike Flannery, said he purchased his property in the county in 1976 after he decided to move from Dallas and get away from the city.

Flannery’s wife, Kelly Flannery, chastised council members for not meeting with residents in the areas under consideration.

“Why have I not met you all?” Flannery said. “Why have you not come to my house and told us what we get out of this? You could have knocked on my door and said, ‘Hey, here’s what we’re wanting to do.’ ”

Flannery said council members would soon know her, should they annex her area, because she planned to visit city hall and attend council meetings often.

County Commissioner Don Beeson asked about the city’s service plan for the areas to be annexed.

“It’s not fair to pay $2,000 in taxes for no city services,” Beeson said. “I’m from Keene, and I love Keene. And I would be happy to be annexed in as soon as I see that Keene can provide services to my area.”

Resident Bill Edmundson said city officials were sacrificing the God-honored values on which Keene was built on the altar of economic greed and growth.

After council members voted to annex all four parcels, several in attendance vowed to fight on, either in court or in the voting booth.

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