Detachment of Territory

The legislature has the power to detach territory from municipalities, in the absence of specific constitutional limitations[i].  A territory may be lawfully detached from one municipality and added to another, with or without the consent of the corporate authorities[ii].

The Legislature may, by special act, extend or contract the corporate limits of a municipality.  The power to detach territory from a municipal corporation is analogous to the power of annexing new territory[iii].

The severance of land from municipal corporations depends largely upon the provisions of the statute in its application, taking into consideration the location and characteristics of both the municipality and the land[iv].  It comprehends the symmetry of the city, the difficulties of administration, economic problems, and planning improvements.

Similarly, the fact that land sought to be detached may have received benefits from a municipality does not bar its detachment[v].  Where a certain area in a town has no proper relationship to its future growth, and receives no substantial benefits, its detachment may become proper[vi].

Some of the criteria available for city authorities in determining whether to detach territory are[vii]:

  • where no improvements have been made by the municipality,
  • the symmetry of the city will not be marred by the detachment, and
  • extending full city services to the area would place upon the municipality an economic burden wholly out of proportion to the needs of the citizens of the city as a whole, and not commensurate with the economic resources and revenue of the municipality.

 

Detachment will be denied where:

  • it would lessen the availability of contiguous urban areas for urban use or the detachment would make city administration more difficult.
  • it results in the physical isolation of part of the municipality, creates islands or peninsulas of unincorporated territory, or mars the city’s symmetry.
  • it would be inconsistent with planning objectives and constitute zoning shopping.
  • financial losses could not be offset by any savings from deannexation or other sources of revenue.
  • the territory receives benefits from being included within the corporate limits, such as where the city sufficiently makes sewers available.

 

If requirements for disconnection of territory from a municipality are met, courts will order that it be disconnected[viii].

[i] Trailway Oil Co. v. Mobile, 271 Ala. 218, 224 (Ala. 1960).

[ii] North Fargo v. Fargo, 49 N.D. 597 (N.D. 1923).

[iii] Oneida v. Pearson Hardwood Flooring Co., 169 Tenn. 449 (Tenn. 1935).

[iv] Marshall v. Mayor & Board of Selectmen, 251 Miss. 750 (Miss. 1965).

[v] Van Bebber v. Scottville, 13 Ill. App. 2d 458 (Ill. App. Ct. 3d Dist. 1957).

[vi] Medley v. Seminole Rock Products, Inc., 138 So. 2d 534 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 3d Dist. 1962).

[vii] Marshall v. Mayor & Board of Selectmen, 251 Miss. 750 (Miss. 1965).

[viii] Van Bebber v. Scottville, 13 Ill. App. 2d 458 (Ill. App. Ct. 3d Dist. 1957).


Inside Detachment of Territory