The Neosho City Council voted to de-annex a stretch of public right away along Highway and AA Highway south of Neosho despite objections from the Neosho Area Business and Industrial Foundation, NABIFI and Neosho Land Development.

The Neosho City Council voted to  de-annex a stretch of public right away along Highway and AA Highway south of Neosho  despite objections from the Neosho Area Business and Industrial Foundation, NABIFI and Neosho Land Development.
The stretch of highway was annexed in 2008 in anticipation of growth. Since no commercial growth or further development has occured in the area, the Planning and Zoning Board previously recommended de-annexation in order to focus city resources on new growth  occurring along the Highway 60/86 corridor.  
Public hearings were held on April 25 and May 23. NABIFI previously submitted a letter stating it did not support the de-annexation.  Council members approved the bill on the first reading in June and the bill was on Tuesday night's agenda.
Bruce Copeland, an attorney representing NABIFI and the non-profit group Neosho Land Development, appeared before council.  Copeland contended that the de-annexation was illegal under state law. Copeland maintained that a home rule city, such as Neosho, is prohibited by state statues to de-annex a property under these circumstances.
He stated that since the property was voluntarily annexed in 2008 and since more than five years have passed, the action is not open for the city to pursue.  He also maintained the de-annexation is not supported by the city charter which requires all de-annexation requests be made by all owners of the land. "The city is not the owner of any of the land," Copeland told the council. He further stated that although he requested property deeds, he has not received any such deeds and thus, in his opinion, the city has no standing in the de-annexation process. He also said, "Whether it's fair in the eyes of the city or not, it (de-annexation) is prohibited.  State law prohibits you from de-annexing the property. It's in the (state) constitution."
Mayor Ben Baker asked if the council and Councilman William Doubek said, "Are we not talking about a road?"
Copeland replied, "We are talking about the land under the road.  It (the road) is owned on, under and to the middle of the earth by the property owners." Councilman Richard Davidson asked about MoDot's involvement and Copeland answered, "I don't know anything about MoDot annexing this land.  It was a voluntary annexation."
Councilman Jon Stephens said, "One comment I have heard about the background on this is that the city was told there would be growth out there but all these years later, it's never come about and it has become a burden to our police force."
Davidson asked during the follow-up questions, "On the NABIFI land, if a crime was committed on that land today, would city or county (law enforcement) respond?
Copeland replied, "I am not here to make police decisions."
Neosho Police Chief David Kennedy told the council that "The Newton County Sheriff's Office and Missouri State Highway Patrol won't do anything (on AA) because it's in the city."
On behalf of his clients, Copeland contended there is no cost to the city for police protection.
Baker said, "For the record, the statement there is no cost to Neosho, this is not correct. We have four officers on a shift and there have been times when we have had three officers responding to events on AA. This leaves our police force and citizens unprotected."
Before the council voted on the de-annexation, Doubek said, "Mr. Copeland says if we approve this it would be illegal.  I have two attorneys presenting two different point of views.  I need to know what's right.  If we are voting today, I will have to abstain."
Neosho City Attorney Steve Hays said, "I don't think it would be a surprise that Mr. Copeland and I would disagree."
Baker stated, "I feel like we have legal grounds to make our motion."
The motion was approved by all council members except Doubek who voted no, after being informed he could not abstain in this instance.