McGrath: Law Permits Cross-County Annexation
HELENA – In a formal opinion released today, Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath held that state law permits annexation across county lines, and such annexation is not dependent on county approval.
Jefferson County Attorney Mathew Johnson requested the opinion, asking whether a municipality in one county must get approval from a neighboring county when it seeks to annex territory in the neighboring county.
One section of state law governs organization of a municipality and Montana law provides for six different methods to annex property to existing municipalities.
“Review of these statutes indicates that, as with the creation of a new municipality, the annexation provisions do not extend authority to county governments to approve or deny a proposed annexation,” McGrath held.
McGrath noted the legislature’s ultimate objective was to create standards for annexation in order to ensure the high quality of services needed for public health, safety and welfare.
The attorney general held “there is nothing in the plain language of the relevant statutes that indicates the legislature intended to require county approval for municipal annexation.”
Opinions of the attorney general carry the weight of law unless a court overturns them or the legislature modifies the laws involved.