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Understanding 100% Freeholder Petition Annexation

This article is the second in a series on the three methods of annexation allowed in South Carolina law. Find the first in the April 2021 Uptown

The 100% freeholder petition and ordinance method for annexation in South Carolina, as described by SC Code Section 5-3-150(3), begins with a petition for annexation signed by every property owner in the area to be annexed. The 100% petition and ordinance method for annexation does not require a public hearing. 

All three annexation methods in South Carolina require properties to be contiguous to the city or town, as defined in SC Code Section 5-3-305, before annexation can occur. “Contiguous” means a property must share a continuous border with the city or town. The owners of the contiguous property can start the annexation process with a petition to the city or town. A 100% petition form is available in the Municipal Association’s Annexation Handbook. This sample form illustrates the type of information the petition should have, such as the county tax map numbers and a plat or map of the property. Property owners can also request that the annexed property receive a certain zoning designation from the city or town. 

Next, the municipal council must decide whether to accept the property into the city or town through annexation. The council should weigh the long-term benefits of annexation — expanded services, population and tax base — against the short-term costs of new services. If the council decides to accept the annexation, it must then adopt an ordinance declaring the property to be annexed. The Annexation Handbook also features a sample annexation ordinance which councils can use. The ordinance should include a description of the property as it appears in the petition. It can also include an indication of its zoning, pending confirmation under the city or town’s zoning ordinance.

For all annexations, state law requires municipalities to notify four entities: the Secretary of State, the SC Department of Transportation, SC Department of Public Safety, and the SC Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, which uses the information to draw lines for election districts and to determine Local Government Fund disbursements.

In some cases, annexations will include property from one of the state’s special purpose districts, which exist for functions such as fire protection, utility services or recreation. The Secretary of State’s website provides a directory of all of the state’s special purpose districts. In these instances, SC Code Section 5-3-310 explains the rules for what happens to the services provided by the special purpose district. The district retains its assets in the area. It also continues to provide services in the area until the municipality provides “reasonable written notice” that it will take over the services in the area and creates an appropriate plan for the transfer of service rights. 

Upcoming issues of Uptown will explore the rules and processes the 75% freeholder petition and ordinance method as well as the 25% elector petition and election method.