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Annexing With the 75% Petition Method

This article is the third in a series on the three methods of annexation allowed in South Carolina law. 
Find the previous installments in the April and May 2021 Uptown.

The 75% freeholder petition and ordinance method for annexation in South Carolina, as described by SC Code Section 5-3-150(1), begins with a petition signed by property owners from the area that is contiguous to the existing municipal boundaries and that is proposed for annexation. The 75% petition method requires that the petitioners include at least 75% of the freeholders in the area who own at least 75% of the assessed property value in the area.
A 75% petition form can be found in the Municipal Association’s Annexation Handbook. The form features information that must be on the petition before signatures are collected including:

  • A statement of the section of law — SC Code Section 5-3-150(1) under which the petitioners are seeking annexation. 
  • A date for the beginning of the process of seeking signatures. Petition organizers must date the petition before the first property owner signs it, and they must gather all necessary petitions within six months of that date. 
  • A description and plat of the area to be annexed. The sample form recommends including the county tax map numbers as well, although this is not required.
Petition organizers must make the petition and its signatures available for public inspection at any time. Various stakeholders can sue to challenge the annexation, including the municipal government itself, any resident of the municipality, or any resident or property owner of the area to be annexed. 

The 75% method requires a public hearing by the city or town council. The municipality must provide notice of the hearing — including a projected timetable for the city or town to provide or assume services in the area — at least 30 days in advance through several channels:
  • a newspaper of general circulation in the community,
  • the municipality’s bulletin board,
  • written notification to all taxpayers of record of properties in the proposed area, and
  • notification to the county’s chief administrative officer, all public service or special purpose districts, and all affected fire departments, including volunteer fire departments.
The public hearing must include a map and complete legal description of the area to be annexed as well as an indication of the public services to be provided and the taxes and fees to be charged of the property owners. When annexing the property, the council must adopt an ordinance using the petition’s description of the property. The Annexation Handbook features a sample annexation 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.

The next issue of Uptown will explore the rules and processes of the 25% elector petition and election method, the only method of the three involving a vote taken among the qualified electors residing in the area proposed for annexation.