City Hall, however, faces a different task: convincing potential critics that the annexation involves no plans for retail development or residential growth.
In number, those critics may be small, but annexation discussions in virtually any city are sprinkled with claims of hidden agendas. “What does it really want that land for?”, the questions often go.
For the record, Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart and City Manager Brian Johnson say the city wants to annex the portion of the refuge not already within the city limits to lessen its liabilities when providing public services in those areas. Anniston Police already responds to vehicle accidents there, for instance.
Another reason for the move, Stewart and Johnson said, are the controlled burns held periodically to tamp down underbrush in the refuge. Refuge managers have asked for the city to provide fire protection during those burns; annexation would streamline that process, as well as secondary issues such as grass cutting and maintenance.
The land in question includes no private property and cannot be developed for retail or residential developers because it is protected by federal law.
Bottom line: There is no reason why Anniston shouldn’t push lawmakers to pass a bill during this session allowing the annexation. It’s good for the refuge and the city.
As for those critics?
For the most vocal among them, Anniston is a city jealous of others — jealous of other cities’ school systems, retail climate and job growth. It wouldn’t be surprising to hear some Calhoun Countians believe this is merely the first step to reel in attractive land — and residents — along the Alabama 9 corridor.
Stewart and Johnson say that’s not the case. We believe them.
For that matter, if the Stewart City Hall wanted to use annexation to boost Anniston’s population and tax base, looking east of McClellan wouldn’t be a wise move. Those itches would be more easily scratched by trying to annex land along U.S. 431 or Alabama 202 — neighborhoods in Saks and Wellborn, for instance.
That isn’t happening.
Our goal here is to head off any hearsay-style jabs that could stain an otherwise sincere effort by City Hall. As annexations go, this one is hard not to support.