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Annexation of Territory

Annexation is the adding of real property to the boundaries of an incorporated municipality, such addition making such real property in every way a part of the municipality[i].

The power of annexation is fundamentally legislative and the judicial role in annexation cases is limited to that prescribed by statute.

A court’s duty when reviewing an annexation is to determine whether the municipality has exceeded its authority and met the conditions imposed by statute[ii].  Judicial review of an annexation may include whether the municipality met the contiguity requirements of annexation statutes[iii].

There are numerous factors to be considered in determining whether a municipality has a need for expansion.  The courts have developed twelve indicia of reasonableness, which are[iv]:

  • need for expansion,
  • path of growth,
  • potential health hazards from sewage and waste disposal in the annexed areas,
  • financial ability to make improvements and furnish services promised,
  • need for zoning and overall planning,
  • need for municipal services,
  • presence of natural barriers between municipality and proposed annexation area,
  • past performance,
  • impact on residents and property owners,
  • impact on the voting strength of protected minority groups,
  • benefits enjoyed by the proposed annexation area because of its proximity to the municipality without paying its share of the taxes, and
  • other factors.


The status of an annexation de facto is recognized[v].  A de facto annexation to requires that four elements must be present[vi]:

  • a constitutional or statutory provision under which the annexation might lawfully have been accomplished;
  • an attempted compliance in good faith with the provisions;
  • a colorable compliance with the provisions; and
  • an assumption in good faith of municipal powers over the annexed territory.


Annexation is a special statutory proceeding[vii].  Compliance with the statutory procedures for accomplishing the annexation is an unavoidable qualification to a pre-annexation agreement actually ripening into an annexation.

An annexation statute is intended to[viii]:

  • encourage natural and well-ordered development of municipalities of the state;
  • distribute fairly and equitably the costs of municipal services among those persons who benefit therefrom;
  • extend municipal government, services, and facilities to eligible areas which form a part of the whole community;
  • reduce friction among contiguous or neighboring municipalities; and
  • increase the ability of municipalities in urban areas to provide their citizens with the services they require.


Statutes make it unlawful for a municipality to impose additional terms and conditions upon the annexation of a landowner’s property, unless it obtains the landowner’s approval[ix].

The annexation of property does not impair vested rights or the obligations of contracts[x].  Property in an annexed area is subsequently treated as any other property within the municipality.

[i] Broward County v. City of Sunrise, 805 So. 2d 46 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 4th Dist. 2001).

[ii] Town of Superior v. Midcities Co., 933 P.2d 596 (Colo. 1997).

[iii] Town of Dyer v. Town of St. John Ind., 919 N.E.2d 1196 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010).

[iv] Poole v. City of Pearl (In re Extension of the Boundaries), 908 So. 2d 728 (Miss. 2005).

[v] Ash Realty Corp. v. Milwaukee, 25 Wis. 2d 169 (Wis. 1964).

[vi] Sunrise Manor Town Protective Ass’n v. North Las Vegas, 91 Nev. 713 (Nev. 1975).

[vii] City of Greenwood Village v. Petitioners for the Proposed City of Centennial, 3 P.3d 427 (Colo. 2000).

[viii] Town of Superior v. Midcities Co., 933 P.2d 596 (Colo. 1997).

[ix] Id.

[x] Bd. of Trs. of Wellington v. Bd. of Trs. of the Fort Collins Reg’l Library Dist., 216 P.3d 611 (Colo. Ct. App. 2009).

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