Idea to expand Weaver westward gets little support
by Brian Anderson
Dec 03, 2013 | 2926 views |  0 comments | 45 45 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Traffic passes along Alexandria Road in Weaver past the city limits sign. The city is wanting to expand it's city limits farther to the west along this road. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Traffic passes along Alexandria Road in Weaver past the city limits sign. The city is wanting to expand it's city limits farther to the west along this road. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
WEAVER — Residents on Alexandria Road west of Cedar Springs Road receive trash and sewer service from the city of Weaver, have Weaver police protection, and send their kids to Weaver schools.

But they aren’t Weaver residents.

City Councilman Jeff Clendenning said he’d like to change that, and he has been trying to learn whether residents to the west of Weaver’s city limits would like to be annexed into the city. So far, the reception hasn’t been all that positive.

“I haven’t gotten anybody that wants to, but I have had a few say ‘no,’” Clendenning said. “I must not be doing a very good job selling it.”

Annexation is typically a tough sell, said Weaver Mayor Wayne Willis, and the benefits cities can give to residents are often things that folks living in unincorporated areas don’t care for.

“We have restrictions, but those restrictions are to protect your property value,” Willis said. “So if you don’t want to live next to a hog farm, you should move to the city.”

Willis granted that many county residents see such municipal restrictions as infringing on their freedoms.

“They say things like ‘I like to shoot my gun in my backyard, but I can’t do that in the city,’” Willis said. “Well, that’s technically true, but is that really that important?”

Earlier this year Weaver annexed two businesses just east of town on Alabama 21. In that case, Heroes American Bar and Grille restaurant, and Smokin Joes Discount Tobacco and Beverage wanted to take advantage of the city’s law permitting alcohol sales on Sundays. That change needed approval from the Legislature in Montgomery, but annexing the property of residents adjacent to a city can be handled locally under the law.

Lori Lein, general counsel for the Alabama League of Municipalities, said annexation for cities is a straightforward process — albeit one for which the league has a 53-page manual titled “Methods of Expanding Municipal Corporate Limits.” But in the case of expanding city limits to take in residences already connected to the city, all residents need is to petition the city’s council and have the body accept the annexation.

While Clendenning said at the last Weaver City Council meeting his goal was to expand Weaver to U.S. 431, he said Tuesday he’d just like to see if any residents close to the border of town would like to be in Weaver, so the city can collect property tax.

“The benefits to being in the city are for city services,” Lein said. “Typically people want to be in the city if they feel like the services the city can provide for them are better than what they have now.”

Some residents on Alexandria Road who spoke to a reporter Tuesday said while they don’t necessarily see a problem with annexation, they also don’t really see any benefits, either.

“It’s honestly something I never thought of before,” said one woman, who declined to give her name, who lived just a few blocks from the city limits. “It’s the first time I’ve ever been asked.”

Clifton Finley, who rents a home just two houses down from the city line, said because he’s not the property owner, annexation wouldn’t change anything for him.

“In Weaver, out, it really doesn’t matter,” Finley said.

It might matter, however, for residents further out and closer to the highway, Willis said.

“Alexandria isn’t a city, but it’s a community and they like their community,” Willis said. “I know that none of them want to be annexed into Weaver.”

And more importantly, lassoing property into Weaver just to get business on U.S. 431 presents even more challenges for the small city of about 3,000 residents. For starters, the highway is about 4 miles down Alexandria Road from the city limits. And Willis said the county probably wouldn’t take too kindly to Weaver trying to take control of important business growth.

“I really don’t want to burn any bridges with the county,” Willis said. “The county has been great to Weaver.”

Calhoun County Commission Chairman Rudy Abbott said he didn't know enough about Clendenning's annexation plans to comment, but said generally county residents resist cities trying to expand borders.

"If they wanted to live in the city, they would have bought a house in the city,"Abbott said. "The city's got too many rules."

Taking in more property also expands police jurisdictions, and Weaver doesn’t have the resources to cover that much new territory, Willis said. Weaver police Chief Wayne Bush told council members at a meeting in late November that the city would need to hire another full-time officer if it wanted to patrol portions of U.S. 431.

“You’re talking with salary and benefits about $45,000 a year,” Willis said. “And we can’t afford that.”

Willis said if residents want to join Weaver, then he’s happy to let them, but early indications from Clendenning’s informal survey seem to suggest that’s unlikely.

“I’m still trying to figure out the selling point,” the councilman said.

Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.

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