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2017 in Review: Drawing a line – Citizen fends off annexation, fights for countywide change

By Racey Burden | Published Saturday, December 30, 2017
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In early September, Bryson Boyd received a certified letter from the city of Bridgeport explaining that his property was likely to be annexed into the town.

“I was not real happy,” Boyd said.

Bryson Boyd

That unhappiness spread into a movement that came to be known as Wise Citizens for Property Rights, which Boyd organized and mobilized to ultimately end Bridgeport’s annexation plans. For his impact on the community, Boyd was selected runner-up for the Messenger’s Wise County Person of the Year by our readers.

Fighting against annexation started as a personal struggle for Boyd, whose family has worked in trucking since the ’60s. 4B Trucking, the Boyd family’s business in Bridgeport, was formed in 1995.

“4B stands for my mom’s four Boyd boys – my dad, me and my brothers,” Boyd said.

4B Trucking moved to its current location on U.S. 380 in 2014, and Boyd said he was surprised the city didn’t try to annex the property then, as the land around it started to develop.

“All it is is a missed business opportunity,” Boyd said. “That’s just the way of life.”

So when the city came back for the land three years later, Boyd wasn’t going to go down willingly.

“They presented it as there really was no way to get out of it,” Boyd said. “I realized we weren’t going to get anything out of it. We decided to fight.”

Not willing to take on more taxes for what he saw as no benefits, Boyd attended a small meeting of to-be-annexed landowners at Bridgeport Guns and Ammo, and from there organized another meeting at the La Quinta Inn and Suites, this one attended by a larger group of citizens. At that meeting, Boyd brought up the idea of forming a non-profit group to fight annexation countywide, and attendees named him the president of said group, the future Wise Citizens for Property Rights (WCPR).

WCPR’s goal was not only to stop involuntary annexation in Bridgeport, but also in Wise. Under Senate Bill 6, signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott this summer, cities in counties with populations of more than 500,000 can no longer involuntary annex land. Boyd and WCPR started a petition for an election to bring Wise under SB 6 while also going up against the city of Bridgeport.

Property owners and citizens against annexation attended public hearings at City Hall, dressed in red – the color of the opposition – and telling council members to vote “no” on annexation. In October, the city announced it would cut back the scale of the annexation, and no properties west of East Farm Road 1658 would be brought in.

Still included in the annexation plan was land on north of town and some parcels on U.S. 380 in town, including 4B Trucking. City staff presented Boyd and others with development agreements that would delay the annexation of their property for five years.

“Once they gave us that agreement, we knew we’d lost,” Boyd said. “We were kind of distraught.”

Boyd said he was in the middle of negotiating his agreement with the city on a Friday when staff stopped replying to his emails. The next Monday, Nov. 13, was the day of the council’s vote on annexation.

They didn’t vote at all. Mayor Randy Singleton stood up and announced that Bridgeport would not annex anyone’s land.

“I was totally shocked,” Boyd said.

The problem now is that everyone seems to think the fight is over, Boyd said – when it’s really just started. WCPR needs to get 4,600 signatures for its petition by May 1. They have about half of that at this point. If the petition succeeds, voters will still have to decide in November 2018 whether they want to end involuntary annexation in the county or not.

Boyd said he’s spending 30 hours a week working on petition-related tasks in addition to his regular job, trying to get the word out.

“This isn’t just a Bridgeport thing,” Boyd said. “We need help. This isn’t just about right now. It’s about your family and your family’s families.

“We’re no good if we’re just fighting for Decatur, or just fighting for Bridgeport. I want everyone involved. This is a county deal.”

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