A property rights bill coming up for a vote in the state legislature is grabbing the attention of the thousands of Tennesseans who choose to live outside city limits.
As it stands now, Tennessee is one of only three states that allows cities to annex outlying areas without a vote, but a grassroots effort hopes to change the law.
Bill Haupt is fighting cancer, living with multiple sclerosis and is also fighting on behalf of property owners across the state who have chosen to live outside city limits. They are the people who have chosen a rural lifestyle without city services, city rules or city taxes.
"To arbitrarily be annexed when you don't know nothing about it, and you receive a letter the mail saying, 'You are now part of my city and here's what to expect with taxes,' it blindsides a lot of people," said Haupt, who founded Tennesseans Against Forced Annexation.
The city of Mt. Juliet has an aggressive annexation plan in the works, and cities like Hendersonville and Murfreesboro continue to inch out into their counties.
If it sounds strange that a city can swallow up a rural home or neighborhood without the property owners' approval, it is, because 47 states allow the people to vote on those matters.
Tennessee is one of the three others who don't.
The Tennesseans Against Forced Annexation page on Facebook is gaining traffic and support, but the real traction comes from the Tennessee Municipal League - one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the state, which is focused on killing a bill that would bring annexation decisions to a popular vote.
"We are deprived of having a voice in the process. The lobbyists who are working in the best interest of the city have taken over the process and have more influence than we property owners have," Haupt said.
The annexation voters' rights bill is one big step from reaching a full vote in the state legislature, as it is set for a House committee vote Tuesday.
Channel 4 News was unable to reach the Tennessee Municipal League for comment on this story.
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