01/04/05 — Judge to tell city to redo annexation

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Judge to tell city to redo annexation

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on January 4, 2005 2:07 PM

Goldsboro will have to start over again in its efforts to annex a portion of Wayne County, according to a decision by a Superior Court judge.

The Wayne County Clerk of Court's office notified the lawyers in the annexation lawsuit Monday of Judge Kenneth Crow's decision.

While the final judgment needs to be drafted, approved and presented to the court, Crow's decision will require Goldsboro to amend its annexation report, and give notice for a new informational meeting and public hearing.

In addition, the city council will have to vote again on whether to adopt the annexation ordinance.

"This is a significant victory and shows that you can fight City Hall," said Wilmington lawyer James Eldridge, who is representing the petitioners in the annexation lawsuit.

Harrell Everett, who is representing the city in the case, could not be reached today to discuss the case.

The ruling voids the city's April decision to annex land on the east and west sides of Salem Church Road, and the north and south sides of Buck Swamp Road.

Eldridge believes the court determined that the city failed to provide the public, and its own city council, with all of the information the annexation statutes require.

"For example," Eldridge said, "the annexation report did not include the amount of money the city would have to pay to the local sanitary districts to adjust the billing rates for water service in the annexed area."

Water service in the area is provided by local sanitary districts at a higher rate than what city residents pay to Goldsboro for their water. During the trial, Everett agreed that the cost of adjusting the water rates should have been included in the report.

Eldridge says he also believes the court will find that the annexation report did not detail the additional resources, and the cost of those particular resources, which are needed for the city to extend its services into the area.

"The report provided a general estimate of the costs of the annexation, but the information showing how those costs were allocated and what additional employees and equipment were needed to implement those services, was missing," Eldridge said.

Bill Burnette, one of the petitioners in the lawsuit who is active in the group opposed to the annexation, said that his group's lobbying efforts were hampered by the lack of information.

"We believe we had a chance to persuade additional council members to vote against the annexation ordinance if they had known the actual cost of the annexation and how that money was to be spent," Burnette said.

Burnette said that 90 percent of the information presented in court by Eldridge was presented to the city council, in writing, at the city's public hearing.

"What caused the judge to decide to send it back, we provided much of that information, free of charge, at the meeting," Burnette said.

Burnette said that the judge's decision would give the city an opportunity to revisit the entire issue and the rationale behind it, and decide whether it is the right thing to do for the citizens of Goldsboro.

Eldridge said it will probably take a few weeks for the final written judgment to be prepared and entered into the record.