04/18/04 — Council members mull Monday annexation vote

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Council members mull Monday annexation vote

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on April 18, 2004 2:03 AM

The Goldsboro City Council is scheduled to vote Monday on an annexation proposed for an area north of the city, and board members say the decision is not an easy one.

"I will say that this is the most painful decision I've had to make yet as a council member," said Councilman Chuck Allen. "I will be ready to vote on Monday, though I don't know yet how I'm going to vote."

Mayor Al King echoes those sentiments, saying he has had to do a lot of "soul searching" while considering how he will vote Monday.

Councilman Charles Williams says he understands the feelings of the people in the area not wanting to be annexed. He also says he has to think about the growth of the city.

With the new U.S. 117 highway under construction, Williams believes commercial growth in that area will explode within a few years.

"But I can understand how they feel," he said. "I can remember years ago when some of my family were annexed, they were angry and infuriated. But after they were annexed, they did see the benefits."

In making his decision for Monday's vote, Williams said he planned to consider what was "right, just, and in the best interest of all."

Councilman Jimmy Bryan said that if the council voted on Monday, he would be prepared to vote, one way or another.

Councilman Jackie Warrick will also be prepared to vote on Monday, and said that he's continuing to have conversations with people in his district about the proposed annexation.

Several councilmen said that feedback from city residents had been supportive of annexing the proposed area.

"A few folks that I've talked to in the city have indicated they are for it," Councilman Bob Waller said. "I'll make up my mind by Monday. I'll be ready to vote.

Councilman William Goodman said that many people in the city supported the annexation as a means of growth for the city.

"I've met and talked with some out in the area proposed to be annexed who are opposed to it, but those in the city see it as a way to grow," Goodman said. "It's a tough decision, but I'll be ready to vote Monday."

Senators weigh in

State Sens. Fred Smith and Tony Moore both said they planned to attend Monday's meeting as a show of support for the annexation opponents. Smith is a Republican based in Johnston County, but he also represents the area under consideration for annexation by Goldsboro. Moore, also a Republican, represents Pitt County, but is running for a seat that would include Wayne County.

Goldsboro is considering annexing property on the east and west sides of Salem Church Road and on the north and south sides of Buck Swamp Road. Some subdivisions, or parts of subdivisions, have been included. They are Ashby Hills, Fallingbrook Estates, Morgan Trace, Buck Run, Pineview Acres, Tarklin Acres and Canterbury Village.

Residents in the area opposed to the annexation have banded together to form an anti-annexation group called "Good Neighbors United." The group has hired Jim Eldridge, a Wilmington lawyer specializing in annexation law, to help them fight the involuntary annexation.

Eldridge requested Friday from the city all documents applying to the proposed annexation, as well as all documents from the annexations proceeding this one.

Besides preparing for a legal fight to stop the annexation, the group is also talking to state lawmakers about changing state annexation laws.

In the 1995 winter edition of the South Carolina Policy Forum Magazine, Charlie B. Tyer writes of the need for a state annexation policy in an article titled "A New Approach to Annexation: Why South Carolina's Cities Are Not Growing."

"Of all the states, North Carolina is probably the leading example of a state that has accepted the principle of involuntary annexation. In so doing they recognized the need for a state policy on urban areas and annexation."

Tyer writes that there are a number of state interests involved with involuntary annexations, primarily sound urban development, which is essential to economic development. And he says that cities can usually provide better services than county governments.

According to Tyer, other states that allow involuntary annexation, regardless of the wishes of those annexed, are Idaho, Kansas and Tennessee.

Some states, such as Oregon, Illinois and Louisiana, allow involuntary annexation under limited circumstances.

"Louisiana allows forced annexation of territory which is 90 percent contiguous to the borders of a city, with an election required if the area is inhabited. In Illinois a city can annex any parcel of land under 60 acres totally surrounded by the city; and, in Oregon a city may annex land that is totally surrounded of any size."

Sen. Smith said he thinks that annexation is "clearly an issue that's in the forefront across the state."

"I think there are some times when cities need to have that option, but there are times they've been abusing that power," Smith said.

In general, Smith said, he was on the side against involuntary annexation, but thinks that lawmakers need to look at the issue comprehensively because he doesn't believe it's a "yes or no" topic.

"But for this particular annexation, I'm against it. I think it's an unfair annexation," he said. "I believe the people in the Northbrook area will receive little or no benefits from Goldsboro. I think it's the wrong thing to do in this case. I will be there Monday."

Sen. Moore didn't speak about the specifics of the proposed Goldsboro annexation, but said that he was "totally against involuntary annexation."

"I think it's unfair to vote people in without them having a say-so," Moore said.

Rally planned

Good Neighbors United has received a permit to hold a protest rally in front of City Hall Monday night. There were over 300 people that showed up protesting the annexation at the April 5 public hearing, but the
group expects more people to show up Monday.

The city has sent out more than 400 letters to residents in the proposed area asking if they want sewer service. The letters were sent out in late March, and the residents have until the end of this month to reply.

So far, 21 people have responded to the city's letter, with only six of the residences saying they were interested in sewer service.