|Legal Opinion: |
Text of Document: October 25, 1991
You have asked whether in deannexing certain territory the city may pass, on first reading, an ordinance that describes the territory by reference to the appropriate tax plats if, before final passage, the ordinance is amended to include a precise metes and bounds description. In my opinion, the city could pass an ordinance on first reading and amend the ordinance, before final passage, to include a metes and bounds description as long as the original property description gives adequate notice to the residents/owners of the property being deannexed.
I have researched the statutes governing contraction of municipal boundaries (deannexation) and find no specific requirement that the ordinance contain a particular legal description of the property being deannexed. However, T.C.A. § 6-51-204 requires the chief executive officer to provide the county tax assessor with a "complete description of all property affected by the contractions." Further, municipal ordinances must provide adequate notice of their subject matter or they may be subject to challenge.
While there is nothing specific in the statutes, I was able to find a Tennessee Supreme Court case that discusses the purpose of requiring a description of property to be published in the resolution calling for election in the context of an annexation. City of Johnson City v. State ex rel Maden, 202 Tenn. 318, 304 S.W.2d 317 (Tenn. 1957). Essentially, the Tennessee Supreme Court determined that the requirement was to provide proper notice to those being affected by the municipal action. The standard adopted to determine whether the description was adequate was whether it was sufficient to pass title to property under a deed. Further, the court acknowledged that the metes and bounds description was accompanied by a plat map, which it felt would most likely be relied on by the average resident/owner, and not the legal description.
Finally, it is clear that an ordinance may be amended between readings if only minor changes are involved. See Biltmore Hotel Court v. City of Berry Hill, 390 S.W.2d 223 (Tenn. 1965). See also Article VII, Section 12 of your City Charter. If the reference to the plat maps, although not a precise metes and bounds description, differs from the final ordinance containing the metes and bounds description to a minor degree the changes between the first and final readings are allowable.
In light of the context of this deannexation, i.e. a swap of land in settlement of litigation, it is likely that the parties affected by the deannexation ordinance are fully aware of the purpose and affect of the ordinance. Because no specific description appears to be required by the statute I believe you will satisfy the notice requirements by adequately referencing the property by the tax plats.
I hope this addresses your concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact me with future questions or concerns.
With kind regards,