Gray's Creek community residents fight annexation - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Gray's Creek community residents fight annexation

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Lawmakers tried to determine if Memphis has the legal right to annex a huge chunk of East Shelby County.

The request for a legal opinion comes after the Memphis City Council held a special called meeting Tuesday to quickly annex the rural Gray's Creek community.  They are moving fast to offset a stare bill to prevent the annexation.

"It's going to get them in trouble," said Fisherville Civic Club President John Bogan.  "Real trouble."

Bogan said Memphis leaders are treading on the wrong turf.  He said the Gray's Creek community does not want to be annexed by Memphis.

"Not with the crime they've got and being broke," said Bogan.

Tuesday, a council committee voted to annex Gray's Creek in a special meeting called after Collierville Senator Mark Norris submitted a bill to prevent the annexation.  The annexation was originally agreed upon by all county mayors in 1998.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell is supporting the roughly 17,000 constituents he could soon lose.

"I think we have to be sensitive to the residents in that area," said Luttrell.  "They have a concern and we have an obligation to be responsive to their concerns."

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton said the city has already begun an $80 million sewage project for Gray's Creek and the city bought land in that area for a fire station.

"The City of Memphis has already begun investing resources in this East Shelby County area," said Wharton.

While the annexation would initially cost Memphis $8 million, Council Chairman Bill Morrison said annexation would eventually bring Memphis about $11 million in annual property tax revenue.

Wharton said Memphis is the only city in Tennessee where state lawmakers are trying to stop annexation and called it racist.

"We're the biggest city, and oddly enough, these bills cover only Memphis," said Wharton.  "And again, we had no input on the drafting of these bills, nor were we consulted with."

Fisherville residents said it was not about race.

"That's the trump card they play," said Fisherville resident Marina Best.  "It's an excuse."

Luttrell said it may be time to review and rewrite the 1998 agreement.  He is joining state lawmakers in an effort to seek the Tennessee attorney general's legal opinion on whether or not the annexation is legal.

"I support what Senator Norris has done with this to try to bring some clarity to it," said Luttrell.  "And to then give us some guidance and direction as to what needs to be done."

Fisherville will fight to keep current essential services in place.

The annexation must pass three readings.  The final vote could happen February 15 or 22.  The state's final vote is February 20.

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