01/24/06 — Judge will review arguments in annexation case

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Judge will review arguments in annexation case

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on January 24, 2006 1:53 PM

A Superior Court judge could rule this week on whether a lawsuit against the city of Goldsboro opposing the annexation of an area north of the city limits can proceed.

Lawyers for the city and Good Neighbors United presented arguments Monday before Judge Ridley Rand. Rand said he would review the arguments and issue a ruling within a few days.

City Attorney Tim Finan and former attorney Harrell Everett argued that the lawsuit filed by the neighbors' group should be dismissed. The city has met all the demands of a previous judge and state law governing annexation, they said.

Jim Eldridge, who represents the neighborhood group, argued that the city's request for summary judgment should be denied. The city's initial attempt to annex was halted and city officials were forced to redo part of their annexation plan. That should call for a completely new annexation survey and report, Eldridge said. They city's previous studies are not relevant to the current annexation plan, he said.

"This is a new proceeding -- a new element," he said. "The petition does not claim that the city didn't meet the requirements. The petition is based on the new procedure of the public hearing and the new ordinance."

The area proposed for annexation contains about 1,100 people and about 410 acres along Salem Church and Buck Swamp roads.

In 2004, the Goldsboro City Council approved an annexation ordinance that would involuntarily annex the neighborhoods. Residents opposing the annexation formed a neighborhood group and sued. The judge in that case ruled in favor of the city, but the residents appealed. An appeals court judge ordered city planners to reconfigure the annexation ordinance.

The City Council approved a second annexation plan last July. Again, the group filed a petition to stop the annexation.

In December, the city filed a motion to dismiss the second lawsuit. That proceeding was continued until this week.

On Monday, Everett argued that the annexation opponents presented the same issues in the 2004 and 2005 petitions.

In the 2004 petition, Everett said the group claimed the city failed "to comply with specific statutes that municipalities must comply with to involuntarily annex property."

Once evidence was presented by the city, he said the annexation opponents had the opportunity to present evidence proving this claim. The evidence presented did require the city to redraft the ordinance, but Everett said the annexation ordinance was not ruled invalid.

None of the allegations were found to be in violation of the annexation requirements once the second ordinance was written, Everett said.

"The petitioners are trying to get a second bite of the apple and we don't know how many more bites they are going to take," he said.

The city has complied with the orders of the appeals court, Everett said. The law should grant summary judgment in favor of the city.

If Rand rules in favor of the city, annexation can proceed although the residents can again appeal.

If Rand rules in favor of Good Neighbors United, the case will likely go to full trial in March.