The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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I. Incorporation

Reference Number: MTAS-909
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: October 28, 2015
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1.  Population requirement. To incorporate under this charter a territory  must have a population of at least 1,500. Tennessee Code Annotated § 6-1-201(a)(1); 1995 Tennessee Public Acts 13.

2.  Plan of services. Areas desiring to incorporate must include a plan of services in the petition for incorporation. T.C.A. § 6-1-201(b); Acts 1993, Chapter 320. The plan of services in the petition must contain the following:
  •  A list of services to include, but not be limited to, police and fire protection, water service, sanitary sewage system, solid waste disposal, road and street construction and repair, and recreational facilities.  T.C.A. § 6-1-203; Acts 1993, Chapter 320.
  • Proposed five-year operational budget, including projected revenue and expenditures. T.C.A. 6-1-203; Acts 1993, Chapter 320.
  • Projected timing of services. T.C.A. § 6-1-203; Acts 1995, Chapter 13.
  • Annual revenue from purely local sources. T.C.A. § 6-1-203; Acts 1995, Chapter 13.
  • Property tax rate to be annually levied on all taxable property. T.C.A. § 6-1-202; Acts 1998, Chapter 1101.

3.  Public hearing. Prior to filing a petition to incorporate with the county election commission, a public hearing must be held on the question of whether or not to incorporate under the mayor-aldermanic charter and the plan of services. The public hearing must be advertised in a newspaper of general circulation for two consecutive weeks. T.C.A. § 6-1-201(a)(3); Acts 1993,  Chapter 320.

4.  Proximity to existing municipalities. Only the changes since 1991 are included here. The charter contains other requirements which may apply to your city. See T.C.A. § 6-1-201, as amended, to see how your city fits into these requirements.

  • A territory  may not incorporate within three miles of an existing municipality of fewer than 100,000 people unless it falls within one of the narrow exceptions provided in the T.C.A. T.C.A. § 6-1-201(b)(1)(A); Acts 1993, Chapter 320.
  • Territories within five miles of existing municipalities more than 100,000 that do not have a metropolitan form of government may not incorporate unless the existing city adopts a resolution by two-thirds vote indicating it has no interest in annexing the area in question. A certified copy of the resolution must be included in the petition for incorporation T.C.A. § 6-1-201(b)(1)(B); Acts 1998, Chapter 1101.
  • Acts 1995, Chapter 202 allows territories  in counties with populations between 18,200 and 18,500 to incorporate. (Scott County has a population of 18,358, according to the 1990 federal census.) Subject to the following conditions:
    •  It is within five miles of an existing municipality of more than 100,000 population, or within two miles of an existing municipality of more than 1,000 but fewer than 100,000 population, the petition for incorporation shall be held in abeyance for 15 months.
    • During that time, if the existing municipality annexes at least 20 percent of the land area or at least 20 percent of the population of the territory  proposed for incorporation, then the petition for incorporation shall be null and void.
    • If, during that time, the existing municipality does not annex at least 20 percent of the land or 20 percent of the population of the territory, then the incorporation proceedings shall be continued. T.C.A. § 6-1-201(b)(2).
    • Acts 1996, Chapter 666, § 1, allows a territory  with 225 residents or more, which is located within a metropolitan statistical  area, borders on the Tennessee River and another state, has a county on its eastern border, and is 1,600 or more feet above sea level on its western border, to incorporate. T.C.A. § 6-1-201(c).
    • Acts 1996, Chapter 666, § 4, allows a territory  of 300 or more residents, bordered on the North bythe Loosahatchie River, on the South by the Wolf River, on the West by the county line, and within a metropolitan statistical  area, to incorporate. T.C.A. § 6-1-201(d)(1).
    • Acts 1996, Chapter 708 added a new subsection to allow territories  to incorporate, in spite of being within distance prohibitions of T.C.A. § 6-1-201, if the governing body of an affected existing municipality adopts a resolution by a majority vote indicating it has no interest in annexing the area in question and a certified copy of the resolution and a petition requesting that an incorporation election be held is filed with the county election commission. This is effective in counties with a population between 80,000 and 83,000 people. (Williamson County has a population of 81,021, according to the 1990 federal census.) Existing municipalities in adjoining counties may also use the procedure. T.C.A. § 6-1-201(f).

5.  Election commission. Examines signatures on the petition for incorporation, certifies the number of signatures within 20 days, and holds an election 45 to 60 days after certification. T.C.A. §6-1-202; Acts 1998, Chapter 1101.

6.  Validation of certain incorporations. Incorporation is validated for all cities that satisfy the following conditions:

  • The registered voters of the unincorporated territory  approved this mayor-aldermanic charter and elected municipal officials on or before December 1, 1999;
  • The territory  has been functioning as a mayor-aldermanic city between the date of the election of officials and April 26, 2001; and 
  • During that time the city has received and expended state funding allocated for municipalities. T.C.A. § 6-1-210(b); Acts 2001, Chapter 129.

7.  Qualifications to vote. Allows registered voters who own real property in certain cities to vote in city elections and referenda subject to the following conditions:

  • The city has a population between seven thousand seven hundred ten (7,710) and seven thousand seven hundred twenty (7,720) according to the 2000 federal census or any subsequent federal census.
  • The city’s governing body adopts a resolution by a 2/3 majority to allow property owners to vote.
  • The presiding officer of the board proclaims the approval or non-approval of the resolution and certifies the results to the secretary of state.
  • The city complies with the provisions of T.C.A. § 2-2-107(a)(3). T.C.A. § 6-1-204; Acts 2007, Chapter 88.