04/04/04 — Annexation laws complicated

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Annexation laws complicated

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on April 4, 2004 9:25 AM

State laws governing annexation are so complicated that people in areas being considered for annexation often don't understand the laws, or know what can be done to prevent annexation.

Bill Burnette, a Wayne County resident living in an area proposed to be annexed into Goldsboro, said that reading state annexation laws was difficult.

"There's no doubt that when you try to read the state statutes, you've got to be a Philadelphia lawyer," he said. "There are so many references, and places where things have been cancelled."

When a city wants to annex an area through the involuntary process it must pass a resolution of intent, and conduct both an informational meeting and a public hearing on the matter. There are dates governing the time frame in which those meetings must be held. An annexation report must be published, and has to be available at the city clerk's office for 30 days prior to the date of the public meeting.

It appears that Goldsboro has met all those requirements for the involuntary annexation proposed on the east and west sides of Salem Church Road, and the north and south sides of Buck Swamp Roads.

State law also says that all persons owning property, or living in the area, shall be given an opportunity to be heard at the public hearing.

The board can't vote on the annexation until at least 10 days after the public hearing, but no longer than 90 days after the hearing.

In addition, the law outlines a number of complicated definitions about the standards for involuntary annexation, which includes resident population per acre, subdivision of lots and use of the land.

Jim Eldridge, a Wilimington lawyer that specializes in annexation cases, says there are ways to challenge annexation.

"Any resident living in the area can petition the local court within 60 days after the annexation vote," he said. "Goldsboro has requirements and procedures they must follow. If they mess up, it's a basis for the challenge."

Eldridge said that the annexation report, which describes how the city will provide the same level of service for the proposed annexation, was often fertile ground for challenges.

Eldridge said that there are five different tests involved in the involuntary annexation process.

"Some are very technical, because it's based on how it's subdivided," he said.

Eldridge said that residents could at least buy some time by legally challenging an annexation.

"You delay the effective date," he said. "Win, lose, or draw, at least it ties up the annexation for two or three years. That could save two years of paying those property taxes. Or, you could hit a home run and kill the annexation."

Eldridge said that the representation on local government boards could change during the time annexations were delayed.

"The local government can change and the new people court the annexation vote," he said. "What really makes a difference is how well organized the group is.