01/27/06 — Annexation case will go to trial

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Annexation case will go to trial

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on January 27, 2006 2:01 PM

Judge Ridley Rand denied the city of Goldsboro's motion for summary judgment Thursday night, ruling in favor of Good Neighbors United and sending the group's challenge of the city's annexation order back to court.

The trial is scheduled to begin March 13.

Rand indicated in his order that he fully reviewed the court file and arguments presented before him and found "a genuine issue of fact" in the group's challenge of the city's annexation order, adding that the matter should proceed to court.

On Monday, Rand heard arguments from both sides following a continuation of a Dec. 14 hearing. Goldsboro's legal representatives, City Attorney Tim Finan and former attorney Harrell Everett, filed a motion for summary judgment asking the judge to dismiss the case from Wayne County Superior Court.

During Monday's proceedings, Good Neighbors United attorney Jim Eldridge argued that his clients had presented a new lawsuit in conjunction with a new annexation ordinance approved by the Goldsboro City Council. Therefore, the new lawsuit would need to be heard by a judge before the case could be dismissed, and Rand ruled in favor of this argument.

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

The first annexation ordinance in 2004 was approved by the City Council to involuntarily annex the neighborhoods. Good Neighbors United formed in opposition to the city's decision 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 ordinance.

Last July, the City Council approved a second annexation plan. Again, the group filed a petition to stop the annexation. In December, the city filed a motion to dismiss the second lawsuit, and Rand continued the proceedings until Monday.

Everett could not be reached at his home or office. Finan could not return any phone calls because he is out of town working on another case.

Goldsboro City Manager Joe Huffman said he would not feel comfortable making a comment on the judge's decision without reading the order or discussing the case with Everett or Finan.

Calls made to Eldridge's cell phone were not returned. However, Bill Burnette, a member of Good Neighbors United, said he and Eldridge will be ready when the trial begins in March.

"In the past, involuntary annexation cases ran through the court system like water off of a duck's back with the cities winning a majority of those lawsuits, but not anymore," he said.