Residents fighting annexation by city await outcome of December hearing
By Andrew Bell
Published in News on November 29, 2005 1:49 PM
County residents fighting annexation by the city of Goldsboro are awaiting a December hearing in their legal battle. If a request by the city to dismiss the case is denied next month, then they will likely get their day in court on Jan. 23.
"The only way it couldn't go to trial is if the city hits a grand slam home run and every one of the claims are dismissed," said Jim Eldridge, attorney for Good Neighbors United. "I don't think that's going to happen."
Residents of an area along Salem Church and Buck Swamp roads have staved off forced annexation for several years. They are hoping to change state law that permits municipalities to extend their jurisdiction if adjoining property meets criteria for population and development.
The legal process began when the city attempted to annex the neighborhoods, Eldridge said. In response, Good Neighbors United was formed to combat the annexation, and the group filed a petition.
"When you challenge an annexation, it is known as an appeal," Eldridge said. "In this case, we were challenging whether the city met the requirements."
There are three issues on which an annexation issue can be challenged. They include the city's plan to extend services to the proposed annexation area, the development tests used by the city to determine if the area is ready for incorporation and the procedures used up to and including the city vote.
In July 2005, the Goldsboro City Council voted 6-1 to annex the property -- the second approval of the measure. Suprerior Court Judge Kenneth Crow ordered a new public hearing on the issue and the second vote because of allegations of improper procedures surrounding the initial decision, said Bill Burnette, chairman of Good Neighbors United, a group of neighbors who are fighting the annexation.
After this vote, Eldridge said another petition was filed on behalf of Good Neighbors United. Since that filing, the city has initiated a motion to dismiss the case, which will be heard in court during the week of Dec. 12.
Goldsboro Mayor Al King said it is normal for property owners to oppose annexation. That is why the law gives municipalities the power to order the annexation if certain criteria are met, he said.
"By the very nature of annexation, if it is involuntary, people don't like it as a rule because you tell me to become a part of the city and you don't want it," King said.
Burnette said property owners simply want some say in where they live.
"I moved out here 13 years ago," he said. "I never would have thought that I would have to fight the city from five miles out."
Burnette and other property owners say the city merely wants their tax dollars.
King does not dispute that. He said cities and towns are always looking for ways to grow and expand their tax bases.
"It would increase the tax base for the city, but you have to increase the tax base as a city," he said. "The tax base is growing, and we are using it for the future of the city. We plan to increase residential and commercial construction throughout the city."
King added that the city is well aware of the expenses the annexation will incur, but said residents in the neighborhoods need the services the city offers.
"We want the annexation because of the help we can provide," he said. "All of the homes in that area use septic tanks. Septic tanks are being reviewed by the health department. They can cause problems and strict guidelines could be set in the future. Those people are going to need sewer treatment."
One of the criteria for annexation requires that the land to be annexed must be at least one-eighth contiguous to the existing city boundary, said Jimmy Rowe, assistant planning director for the city. The area proposed for annexation meets that criteria.
Burnette said no one in his neighborhood has told him they want city sewer. He said the city could annex a number of areas but chose the one along Salem Church and Buck Swamp roads because of the large number of homes and the tax dollars they would generate each year.
"Forced annexation is a tool ignorant city officials can use for the efficiency of their own agenda," Burnette said. "We intend to see this through to the end for one reason and one reason only -- what's happening here is wrong," Burnette said. "People think this is gone, and it is far from gone."
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