07/06/04 — Court delays Goldsboro annexation

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Court delays Goldsboro annexation

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on July 6, 2004 2:00 PM

A court order delaying the June 30 effective date of Goldsboro's plan to annex an area north of the city was issued last week.

The stay relieves the city of its obligation to provide services or negotiate and budget for those services until the matter is decided in court.

The case is tentatively scheduled to be heard in Wayne County on Oct. 18 before Judge Jerry Braswell.

In April the council voted to annex 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.

Jim Eldridge, a Wilmington lawyer specializing in annexation laws, was hired by Good Neighbors United, composed of residents in the targeted area, to fight the annexation.

Last month the group filed a "petition for review" in Wayne County Superior Court, asking the court to throw out the city's annexation ordinance, saying it failed to meet state requirements.

The petition says the annexation ordinance that the City Council approved in April fails to show:

*How the city will provide required services to the area in the same way that they are provided in the rest of the city.

*How the city will pay for those services.

*And how the annexation will affect the city's finances and services.

City officials have said they are prepared to fight in court for the annexation. They say the annexation is needed for the city to grow, and it has been done in a legal manner.

Eldridge said that cities usually pass an annexation ordinance a year before it becomes effective.

"Goldsboro followed a little different procedure, making its ordinance effective June 30," he explained.

Eldridge said that the city's lawyer suggested "freezing the annexation ordinance" until the court proceedings were completed. "It's a good idea, because this way there's no unnecessary expenditures," Eldridge said.

Eldridge said that both he and the city were trying to get a priority setting for the case because of the importance of the trial.

No matter which side wins the case in October, the other side will appeal the decision, Eldridge said.

Even if the annexation is upheld in the courts, the appeal process could delay the effective date for up to two years.

Eldridge has had some success recently with fighting involuntary annexation in North Carolina. In late June a judge in Eden found the city's annexation invalid based on a water service issue.

Though Eldridge doesn't expect to find a water service problem with Goldsboro's proposed annexation, he has hired a real estate lawyer to see if the city complied with state law in several recent voluntary annexations.

That includes the voluntary annexation in 2000 of the Lane-Howell property. The property contains 360 acres on the east side of Salem Church Road between Stoney Hill Road and Fedelon Trail. That annexation made the recently annexed property contiguous to city limits, a criteria for the involuntary annexation.