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Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS)

Original Author: Ashburn, Melissa
Date of Material: 07/28/2003

Annexation--Laws and regulations--Tennessee
Annexation--Laws and regulations

Procedure for a Larger Municipality to Annex a Smaller Muncipality

Reviewed Date: 07/23/2021
MTAS was asked to research the procedure for a smaller city to be taken over, or annexed, into a larger city.


DATE: July 28, 2003

FROM: Melissa Ashburn, Legal Consultant

RE: Annexation inquiry

You have asked me to explain the procedure for a larger city to annex a smaller city. T.C.A. § 6-51-109 sets out the procedure to follow when a larger municipality annexes a smaller municipality. The process begins with the filing of a petition by residents of the smaller city requesting the annexation, which must be signed by at least 20% of the qualified voters voting in the last general election. The petition is filed with the mayor, who shall “promptly submit” the petition to the mayor of the larger city. The larger city may annex the smaller city by resolution after holding a referendum on the issue. Only a majority vote of the qualified voters in the smaller city is required to approve the annexation.

The referendum on the question of whether the larger city should take over the smaller city is held at the option and the expense of the larger city. The larger city may choose not to annex.

If a referendum is held and the annexation is approved, the corporate existence of the smaller city shall cease within 30 days after the certification of the election results. All debts and liabilities of the smaller city become the property of the larger city.

There are no reported cases challenging the procedure established by T.C.A. § 6-51-109, and no Attorney General Opinions address the issue of annexation of a smaller city by a larger city. This section of the state code was in existence well before the adoption of Public Chapter 1101, and it has not been amended since 1987. I do not believe the fact that the smaller city is outside the urban growth boundary of the larger city will operate to make the process any more difficult, since annexation by referendum is still permitted outside the UGB.

I hope this is helpful. Please let me know if you need anything further.