Canton alderman opposes annexation
By LaReeca Rucker
It’s a black and white issue for Dr. William Truly, alderman at-large, who oposes the city’s recent vote to proceed with annexation plans for a 300-plus acre tract of Madison County property.
He says plans are in the works to develop the property with golf courses and high-priced multi-family residences that will eventually attract non-white residents and weaken black voting power in the city.
Truly projects around 10,000 high income, non-white citizens will move to the planned development off Nichols Road and Hwy. 51 adjacent to the city limits, almost doubling Canton’s current 13,000 population and causing division among white and minority voters.
But Alderman Kenneth Wayne Jones said board members have been working on current annexation plans for two years. He said he doesn’t understand why Truly has waited until now to opose the decision to move forward with the annexation of the Nichols Road tract and, instead, present an alternative proposal that would call for the annexation of voters who live mainly in apartments just outside the city limits.
Truly presented an alternative annexation proposal to board members Tuesday, asking them to consider annexing eight apartment communities just outside the city limits.
He said the communities are in the natural path of growth and, for the most part, are adjacent, contiguous and within reasonable proximity to the corporate boundaries of Canton. But he believes their historical exclusion is race-based and that annexing the Nichols Road tract will deceive the city’s minority voters.
“This is a Trojan horse that would create a new Canton by adding white voters to the city, which would dilute the black voters,” Truly said. “I’m not prepared to create a new Canton where the city is surrounded by 10,000 Republicans who will live down there by the golf course and dilute the black votes.”
Truly said the communities he has proposed annexing would be a better choice because they require little or no improvement, no substantial financial investment and are already recipients of city services such as sewer, water and electricity.
He said he believes the annexation of these communities will generate $500,000 annually for the city’s general fund that could be used to better the city police, fire departments, streets and youth programs.
“Why anyone wants to table bringing in black folks and all these people, I don’t have any idea,” he said.
Truly’s proposal was tabled during Tuesday’s board meeting, with Ward 5 Alderman Kenneth Wayne Jones motioning toput it on hold until Phase 1 of Nichols Road tract annexation is complete.
Jones said he agrees that the apartment communities (five of which Jones said are in Jones’ Ward) should be annexed by the city at some point, but the city should stick to its original plan to annex the tract before switching to something else.
“What we are trying to do with the annexation is target areas where there are no people because the budget doesn’t allow us to be tied up in court right now,” Jones said. “We are taking the path of least resistance. Right now we are just trying to annex where there are no people.”
Truly said annexing the Nichols Road tract, which will eventually be developed by Lindsey Construction and transformed into the The Links of Madison, would be detrimental to Canton’s minority voters because it would eventually be occupied by non-white residents attracted to the golf course and upscale townhouses that Truly estimates will range from $200,000-$300,000.
“Common sense tells me that people who have enough money to have estate homes, golf courses and townhouses are high income people,” he said.
“I look at this as a Trojan horse presented to the minority community.”
Mayor Fred Esco said it's unfair to assume that the people who eventually locate to the Nichols Road developments will all be white, and he expects that some of the residents who relocate there will be Nissan employees.
“If residential property is coming there, it more than likely will be mixed,” Esco said. “I know a lot of black families right now who want to find places to build homes in the city limits because they call my office all the time. We are bursting at the seams for housing.”
Esco believes the Nichols Road tract is a way to prepare for Canton’s future.
“We want to grow Canton in a smart manner,” he said. “Under Phase 1, we would annex this land, and under Phase 2, we would consider those areas that Dr. Truly has mentioned, but it would just not be economically sound for us to take them in at this time without having some other base to offset the additional expenses.”
Jones said if Truly’s projection proves true, it is an issue at least a decade or two away.
"You sit here and talk about how this city has disregarded what these people wanted, and you are doing the same thing,” Jones told Truly during the board meeting. “We have an annexation plan in place and we have to stick to it.”
Jones said the Nichols Road tract annexation has been discussed and researched the last two years by the city and two law firms.
The city’s master plan provided by Truly, shows that the development would eventually be home to many residential properties.
The Links at Madison County would have 30 acres of commercial development and around 50 residential properties with garden areas, playgrounds, a tennis court, pool, clubhouse and golf course.
The Links, which is considered Phase 1 of the development, would extend to another development called The Lakes that will feature 260 single-family residences, 140 townhouses, six lakes and a portion of the golf course it shares with The Links.
Lindsey Construction, Inc., of Fayetteville, Ark., and Pritchard Engineering, of Starkville, are working on the development.