Murfreesboro city councilmen are wrestling with a procedure to comply with a recent state law that restricts the ability of cities to annex properties.

The act, passed in response to a flood of property owners’ complaints about annexation abuses in the past, requires that cities only annex properties with the owner’s consent.

In addition, they must show they can provide services such as sewers and police service to the annexed parcels.

To make it all work, the councilmen are taking three votes when they get an annexation/rezoning petition. The first is to approve a plan of services, which only has meaning if they then approve the annexation.

Under this procedure a property comes into the city under a large-lot residential designation unless the property owner requests a zoning change. In that case, the annexation doesn’t take effect until the zoning change is approved. The third vote is to rezone. Basically, that three-step gives the property owner a chance to back out if he doesn’t get the zoning he wants. If the zoning request is turned down the annexation is in limbo.

If that sounds complicated, most council members would agree with you. Much of the discussion in trying to work out the procedure came during new City Attorney Craig Tindall’s first meeting Thursday night. Tindall is moving here from Arizona.

“Mr. Tindall, we’re actually smarter than what we sound like right now,” Mayor Shane McFarland joked.

“Be careful mayor,” came a voice. “Don’t overreach.”