05/05/04 — Residents want city to reconsider annexation: council declines

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Residents want city to reconsider annexation: council declines

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on May 5, 2004 2:12 PM

A group of residents in the area recently annexed by Goldsboro says it is forging ahead with plans to fight the council's decision in court. The group's spokesman, though, says he hopes the council will rescind its decision and avoid a legal battle.

But several councilmen say they have no plans to rescind their vote to annex the area.

"No, I wouldn't consider rescinding," said Councilman Charles Williams.

Mayor Al King and Councilman Bob Waller also said they didn't plan to rescind their vote.

Red Ribbons

News-Argus/Barbra Arntsen

The red ribbons lining this fence at a home in Fallingbrook means "Stop Goldsboro." The Good Neighbors United group is selling the ribbons to continue raising money for its legal fight against the cityƍs annexation.

"I still feel like this was the best way for the city to grow and prosper," King said. "If a city didn't do that, we would still be like Waynesborough, across 117. We wouldn't have grown."

And Waller said he thought the city had to grow for economic development reasons.

"When we annex we bring more people in the city, and that gives us access to more federal and state money," Waller said. "That's how it affects the whole area, by keeping Goldsboro viable."

In a 5-2 vote, the council decided on April 19 to annex the east and west sides of Salem Church Road and the north and south sides of Buck Swamp Road.

"We were stunned," said Bill Burnette of the vote. "We didn't even know it was over with." Burnette is the president of Good Neighbors United, the group fighting the annexation. About 400 of the group had packed into the council meeting.

But Burnette also said the group was prepared for the council's decision.

"It didn't surprise me because I don't think they've ever voted no for an annexation," he said. "But I think they're missing the big picture."

Burnette disagreed with the phrase "if the city doesn't grow, it will die," which was used by city officials. "The city has yet to define what they mean by growth, other than geographical growth," he said.

Burnette questioned how much each council member researched the issues surrounding the annexation and wondered what kind of input council members received from various commissions. He said that groups, such as the Economic Development Commission, the county commissioners, Board of Realtors, and the Committee of 100, had as their objective making Goldsboro and the county a better place.

"Did the council consult with these people?" he asked. "I don't know. But I will say those groups have been noticeably silent."

Burnette said the annexation will have a negative economic effect on Goldsboro and the county.

"The dollars spent on taxes is less money to flow into the economy of Goldsboro," he said of the annexed residents having to pay city property taxes. "And money that flows in the economy reaches more than tax dollars do."

Burnette added that many of the military personnel living in that area couldn't afford a dramatic cost of living increase, which would happen with the annexation. He also said this could have a bearing on the base closure process the federal government is undertaking.

"I think that the timing for this is not right," Burnette said. He also said that the northwest area of the county was one of the hardest hit by the county's revaluation of property values last year. "And this was done in one of the biggest economic downturns in our country."

Burnette said he was always hearing about the council's concern and dedication to the revitalization of downtown.

"They want to revitalize downtown, but they're touting the potential commercial prospects five miles away from downtown," he said. "They can't have it both ways."

Williams said the city could have it both ways, and it needed growth in both areas.

"We want growth downtown and we want it there," he said. "We'd like to see growth as far as it can go."

Good Neighbors United also questions the quality of services the city could provide and the meandering method of line-drawing that defined the annexed area. He points to recent shootings within the city and asks if the police department is equipped to handle additional calls from five miles away.

Williams said that the city would hire additional people to provide services to the annexed area.

"It's part of the long-range plan," he said. "We will hire more sanitation workers, police and maintenance people. They'll be getting services they don't even know they'll be getting."

Burnette said that if the council decides not to rescind its vote, the organization will proceed with its plan to go to court.

Jim Eldridge, the Wilmington lawyer hired by the group, will soon file a petition with the courts, asking it to review the annexation.

Eldridge is also still waiting for the annexation documents he requested from the city on April 16.

The group has a Web site at stopgoldsboro.com.