By Scott Buttram
Just over a week ago, a Pinson newspaper posted public documents involving mayoral candidate Phil Sims without an accompanying article to explain Sims’ side of the matter. Friday night, public documents were posted on the Pinson Talk Facebook page which mentioned the current Pinson mayor, Hoyt Sanders.
The court records posted on Pinson Talk relate to the 2003 and 2006 annexations by the city of Pinson in regard to property owned by Mary Johnson Cochran. The court case was filed in October of 2007 against the city by Mrs. Cochran.
According to the court order, “Sometime in 2003, she (Mrs. Cochran) signed a petition to form the City of Pinson and both parcel numbers were included on said petition. It is also undisputed that these parcel numbers were placed upon the petition by Hoyt Sanders, current Mayor of Pinson, perhaps not in the presence of Mrs
“I had known Mrs. Cochran for years,” Sanders said. “She asked me to come to her home and she produced two tax cards, those cards have everyone’s tax ID and property description, to transcribe the information to the incorporation forms.”
Sanders said that the 79 acre parcel was ultimately excluded from annexation because the property did not qualify for incorporation under state law.
“When we submitted the paper work for incorporation to the registrar, it was their job to confirm or refuse the property in 2003,” Sanders said. “The registrar raised the issue that the 79 acres were non-inhabited and the law requires four residents per 40 acres for incorporation.”
According to Sanders, there were several parcels of property that fell into same category. After the city’s incorporation process, what followed was a series of “housekeeping” annexations in which property that did not meet the state standard for incorporation were brought into the city limits because they now met the state requirement for annexation. Cities may annex property that has two residents per 40 acres.
The 2008 court order said, “In 2006 a Petition for Annexation was presented to Mrs. Cochran by her friend Sharon Moore. Mrs. Cochran signed the petition, which did not contain a description of the parcel to be annexed. The parcel number was added on the petition at a later date by someone else. Mrs. Moore testified that Mrs. Cochran thought that she had already signed the petition that was presented to her. It is likely that Mrs. Cochran mistakenly thought the Annexation Petition related to the 17 acres that she had intended to be included when the City of Pinson was incorporated. Mrs. Cochran testified that she never intended that the 79 acre parcel was to be annexed into the City of Pinson.”
Sanders confirmed the 2006 petition for annexation of Mrs. Cochran’s 79 acre parcel was brought to the city by Moore.
“She and her husband had been helping and volunteering in many ways,” Sanders said. “We were a brand new city; everyone was helping as much as they could.”
According to Sanders, there was a list of similar properties that city officials revisited after incorporation. “We worked on them as we came to them.”
Sanders went on to say that it was not uncommon for petitions to arrive at city hall without a legal description or parcel number. “Most people wouldn’t know that information and would come in seeking help.”
In early 2007, Mrs. Cochran’s nephew, Michael E. Perry, Jr., petitioned the city on his aunt’s behalf with her request that the city de-annex the 79 acre parcel. The matter was brought before the city council on October 4, 2007 in a resolution by Councilman Joe Cochran to reduce corporate limits and de-annex Mrs. Cochran’s 79 acre parcel. The motion failed 4-2 with Cochran and Sanders voting for de-annexation and Councilors Joy McCain, John Churchwell, Shane Shelnutt and Dawn Tanner voting against de-annexation.
“I favored de-annexation for several reasons,” Sanders said. “There was obviously a misunderstanding of some kind, we have no ad valorem tax in Pinson, so the property didn’t impact the tax base and there was no contiguous property that would be affected.”