04/04/05 — Group will take annexation fight to commission

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Group will take annexation fight to commission

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on April 4, 2005 1:45 PM

Wayne County residents who oppose annexation by the city of Goldsboro will ask county commissioners Tuesday to support legislation that would give them a say in the process.

Residents of an area northwest of Goldsboro are currently battling efforts to bring them into the city limits.

North Carolina is one of a handful of states that allows a municipality to annex an area without a vote of approval by its residents.

Bill Burnette, a member of the Wayne group fighting annexation, said they hadn't talked to the commissioners about the proposal.

He said that the group, Good Neighbors United, were under the impression that the county didn't get involved in the annexation process because it considered annexation "city business."

"But then we realized that no one had actually spoken with a commissioner about it, and we began thinking that they don't understand the issue from our perspective," Burnette said.

Reps. Nelson Dollar of Wake County and Trudi Walend, who represents Henderson, Polk and Transylvania counties, are the primary sponsors of House Bill 302, which would require a vote of the people in the area considered for annexation if 10 percent of the registered voters in it sign a petition opposing annexation. A Senate bill would require a vote if 20 percent of the registered voters sign a petition.

The measures would require that the vote be held within 90 days after it was ordered by the local governing body.

If a majority of the votes cast in the area proposed for annexation were in favor of annexation, the annexation ordinance would pass. If a majority of the votes cast in that referendum were against annexation, the annexation would not go into effect.

Rep. Louis Pate Jr. of Wayne County said he believes that the House bill needs some adjusting. He said he would the proposal if the percentage or residents required to sign the petition is 20 percent or more.

"I think there's a lot of interest in the bill," Pate said. "There have been some municipalities a little too eager in the annexation procedure and residents have been angered about tactics."

Pate said questions about annexation laws have cropped up across the state because some municipalities "have been making some land grabs."

"Cities have to grow, but property owners should have a say," Pate said.

Under current law, North Carolina property owners have a chance to express their opinions at a public hearing before the annexation vote, but the town or city council does not have to heed them.

Goldsboro's annexation case centers around the city's decision last year to annex land on the east and west sides of Salem Church Road, and the north and south sides of Buck Swamp Road.

In January, a Superior Court judge decided that the city needed to amend its annexation report, and give notice for a new informational meeting and public hearing. Lawyers for both sides are still working out the details of that decision.

Burnette said that annexation has always been seen as a natural evolution of city growth, but that the latest attempt by Goldsboro to annex didn't happen that way.

"There's an effect on the county regarding this annexation," Burnette said, "and the package needs to be looked at in total."

Other items on the commissioner's agenda for Tuesday include a public hearing on the proposed Rural Operating Assistance Application scheduled to be sent to the state transportation department and an annual report from the Division of Community Corrections.

The county Board of Commissioners meets at 9 a.m. in the commissioner's meeting room on the fourth floor of the Wayne County Courthouse.