Annexation case on way to court
By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on October 17, 2004 2:04 AM
Goldsboro's annexation opponents are headed to court Monday, almost six months to the day since the City Council voted to annex their land.
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. City Councilman Jimmy Bryan and former Councilman William Goodman voted against it.
In its lawsuit against the city, the plaintiffs are questioning the quality of services the city can provide and the meandering method of line-drawing that defined the annexed area.
Jim Eldridge, a Wilmington lawyer specializing in annexation laws, was hired by Good Neighbors United, a group composed of residents in the targeted area, to fight the annexation.
A court order delaying the June 30 effective date of Goldsboro's plan to annex an area north of the city was issued in June.
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.
In July, former City Attorney Harrell Everett filed a motion to dismiss the annexation lawsuit, saying the plaintiffs had not complied with state law when filing the suit.
Everett retired from his position as city attorney at the end of June, but continues to represent Goldsboro in the annexation lawsuit, which has been filed in Wayne County Superior Court.
A judge denied the motion, but did say the city was entitled to more specific information about the allegations.
Eldridge filed an amendment to the suit in August, maintaining that the city's annexation report didn't give specific plans for providing services. The amendment also said that the city didn't have a detailed statement showing how the annexation would affect city finances.
Eldridge also said that the city didn't follow state laws for the voluntary annexation in 2000 of the Lane-Howell property.
The Lane-Howell property consists of 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.
Eldridge says that the City Council didn't have the required jurisdiction to annex the Lane Farms and Howell Properties in 2002 because all of the property owners didn't sign the annexation petition.
Because of that, the recent annexation is null and void because the annexed area is not adjacent and contiguous to the city borders.
The amendment also says that the city didn't provide a specific plan outlining how it would provide a similar level of sewer and water services to the annexed area, as well as additional fire and police protection.
Eldridge said that the city didn't provide a plan or reach any agreements with Fork Township Sanitary District and Belfast Patetown Sanitary District to ensure the annexed residents would pay the same lower rate that city residents pay for their water service.
He also said that the city didn't plan for a similar level of fire protection for the annexed area and that it didn't get authorization from the sanitary districts for the installation of additional fire hydrants.
In addition, the amendment said the flow rate in the sanitary district's water line was less than the flow rate for city water lines, meaning that citizens in the proposed annexation area would continue to have a higher fire insurance classification rating than city residents.
The petition also said the city failed to fix a date for the required public informational meeting when it adopted its resolution of intent to annex the property in February.
When the city tried to correct that omission, it didn't adopt the ordinance by the required two-thirds vote, the petition stated. That means the city didn't acquire jurisdiction over the annexation area, the petition said.
Even if the annexation is upheld in the courts, the appeals process could delay the effective date for up to two years.
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