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State Rep. Phil King (center back) and elections administrator Don Markum (holding the large binder) were on hand to witness the turning in of over 10,000 petition signatures last week. Photo by Edward Brown.

One of our uncles lives on a ranch. He’s a tough old coot without much edu-ma-cation, but he’s country-smart. One time he was having a barn sale. A customer wearing nice clothes and expensive sunglasses stopped in front of an old, rusted-out Coke cooler and began searching online on his cell phone.

“I’ll give you $100 for the Coke machine,” he said after a few moments.

“OK,” our Uncle Coot replied, accepting five crisp $20 bills and putting them into his wallet.

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The customer then called someone.

“Hey, I found a Model [whatever] Coke machine in rough shape, but it’s restorable,” he said. “I’ll let you have it for $200, but you’ll have to come get it yourself.”

After he hung up, the customer told Uncle Coot that someone would come by to pick up the Coke machine.

“Did that make you mad that I bought it for $100 and sold it for double,” he asked Coot with a smile.

“No,” Coot said. “I was only asking $50 for it.”

A few Parker County residents sound country-smart. Recently, about two-dozen members of the volunteer group Stop Annexation in Parker County gathered at the county clerk’s office to hand over a binder with more than 10,000 petition signatures to Elections Administrator Don Markum. This could mark the beginning of the end for involuntary annexations in the county just west of Tarrant.

A new state law requires cities in Tier 2 counties – those like Tarrant with more than 500,000 residents – to hold a vote before annexing property in their extra-territorial jurisdiction. The law doesn’t apply to Tier 1 counties with fewer than 500,000 residents – all of Parker County tops out at about 150,000 folks. However, Republican State Rep. Phil King of Weatherford, Parker’s county seat, added an amendment to the law: Tier 1 counties could hold an election to opt in to the new law, thereby giving small-county residents a say in whether or not they become part of a city.

King authored the bill in response to outcries from residents in Parker County’s 1,300-acre rural community of Zion Hill. A lot of folks move outside the city limits to raise cows and chickens and use water wells and septic tanks and thumb their noses at what they consider to be burdensome code regulations and city taxes. They rarely move far enough. Most stay close to benefit from all the things civilization offers – jobs, restaurants, bars, mechanics. City officials start going, “Hmm, these freeloaders are enjoying the benefits of our city but none of the tax burden. And those roosters are noisy. And that shed one of them built looks like crap. Maybe it’s time we pay them a visit.”

Last summer, Zion Hill residents were facing the possibility of being sucked into the government’s clutches. Neighboring Weatherford wanted to annex the area to control development and plan for future growth and transportation needs.

Zion Hill residents rebuffed Weatherford’s land grab after prompting the petition effort. Courtney Butler, an organizer with Stop Annexation in Parker County, was on hand to watch the petition being presented to Markum last week. Her group, she said, has become a resource for other Texas communities trying to resist forced annexation. 

“We receive calls on a weekly basis,” she said. “We support all of them completely. We were determined to make sure no one else goes through what we went through.”

County commissioners will review the petition, and then a measure to opt in to Tier 2 status will be added to the county ballot as part of the general election in November. If the measure passes, that’s the end of involuntary annexation in Parker County.

Getting to this point hasn’t been easy, even with dozens of volunteers, Butler said. She’s giving herself a short break before beginning the next phase — educating Parker County voters on the benefits of ending involuntary annexation.

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