03/13/06 — Arguments begin in annexation challenge

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Arguments begin in annexation challenge

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on March 13, 2006 1:56 PM

Lawyers for the city of Goldsboro and opponents of annexation were back in court this morning as the two sides continued their legal battle.

Good Neighbors United, a group of residents living along Salem Church and Buck Swamp roads, has been fighting the city’s attempts to forcibly annex them for nearly two years.

Judge Ripley Rand, who ruled against a city motion to have the case dismissed in December, will hear arguments for both sides this week in Wayne County Superior Court.

The City Council voted to annex the area in April 2004. The group sued and a judge ruled the city’s annexation ordinance did not meet all the necessary guidelines and sent city planners back to the drawing board.

The City Council redrew its ordinance, held a second public hearing on the issue, and voted again last July to bring the area into the city limits. The group again sued.

State law permits municipalities to annex contiguous land if it meets certain legal criteria.

Good Neighbors United has argued that a previous voluntary annexation of land next to them that made their property contiguous to the city was illegal.

The city argued that the opponents have no standing to challenge the previous annexation of the Lane-Howell property.

Good Neighbors United attorney Jim Eldridge presented opening arguments.

“I believe we are all familiar with the expression ‘No pain, no gain,’ but this annexation turns that phrase on its head,” Eldridge said. “There have been two attempts to annex this property and both have proved all pain and no gain and back around again.”

Former city Attorney Harrell Everett said the city has met all the criteria set forth for legal annexation.

“Absolute and liberal compliance is not required for this annexation, only substantial compliance of the ordinance is required. We have already done this once, then we were given an order of remand by the judge and we will show that we complied with this new order of remand.”

About 50 people, including property owners and city officials, were in the courtroom. City Planning Director Jimmy Rowe was the first witness to take the stand.

The proposed ordinance would affect about 475 acres of land and 370 homes.