01/23/06 — Annexation motion hits court today

View Archive

Annexation motion hits court today

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on January 23, 2006 2:04 PM

The city of Goldsboro will seek to have a lawsuit challenging its plans to annex an area northwest of the city limits dismissed today in Wayne County Superior Court.

If Judge Ridley Rand rules in favor of the city, the City Council will proceed with plans to annex an area along Salem Church and Buck Swamp roads. If Rand finds for the residents opposing annexation, the lawsuit will go to court in March -- and the residents will be able to present their case against the measure.

City Attorney Tim Finan said the city's motion to dismiss the case is based on its assertion that it has met all the conditions set by a previous judge, including holding another public hearing on the issue.

The residents say they should be able to challenge the initial annexation that set the current acquisition in motion -- and that the city has not abided by the judge's instructions with regard to the annexation.

The two sides met in court two years ago and a judge ordered the city to go back and redo several parts of its annexation process after questions were raised about water service to the proposed annexation area. Judge Kenneth Crowe ordered city officials to set appropriate water rates for annexed residents. The city entered into contracts with independent water districts to provide water for them, Finan said. The judge also ordered the city to amend its annexation plan to show its commitment to pay the cost of annexation. Finan said that requirement has also been met.

Finan is expected to make the city's case first. Jim Eldridge, representing Good Neighbors United, will respond. Rand is not expected to rule immediately but hear both sides before studying the arguments.

Bill Burnette, a member of Good Neighbors United, said he believes the case will go to court. Burnette and other residents have said the city only wants to annex their neighborhood to increase its tax revenues. They also challenge the initial voluntary annexation that set the stage for the current proposal, charging it was done improperly and is, therefore, invalid. Without that initial annexation, the current proposal cannot go forward, the residents say.

The area proposed for annexation includes about 1,100 residents and a little more than 410 acres, city planners said. City Council members have said the annexation is necessary for the continued growth of the city. Residents say it is nothing more than a power grab.

"We all know this annexation is not normal planned growth," Burnette said. "It's about financial profiling of private citizens to 'get the most bang for the buck' as stated by one city councilman."

The city first attempted to annex the area in 2004. Plans were put on hold when the residents' group sued but the council again voted to annex last year, prompting the latest court battle.

The case was to start at 10 a.m. today.