03/14/06 — City officials detail process of annexation

View Archive

City officials detail process of annexation

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on March 14, 2006 1:55 PM

Goldsboro officials manipulated the boundary of a previous annexation to make it possible to annex a residential area along Salem Church and Buck Swamp roads, a lawyer for residents of the area said Monday in Wayne County Superior Court.

Residents have been fighting the proposed annexation for nearly two years, saying it will do them more harm than good. The first time the two sides went to court, the city was ordered to rewrite its annexation ordinance. It did so, and the neighbors sued again.

Jim Eldridge, the lawyer for Good Neighbors United, the group suing the city, said the previous annexation of the Lane-Howell property that made his clients' land contiguous to the city limits was designed to set up the second annexation.

"The manipulation of the boundary to get what they want violates the policy behind the boundary requirement," Eldridge said.

State law permits municipalities to annex adjacent land if it meets certain criteria, such as population density. A certain percentage of the land must be contiguous to the city limits, as well.

In return, the municipality must promise to provide services such as water and police and fire protection.

Most of Monday's testimony was given by Jimmy Rowe, the director of the city Planning Department. Rowe said the city's plans to annex the area along Salem Church and Buck Swamp roads met all the criteria set by state law.

Harrell Everett, the former city attorney, who is representing the city in the case, said Goldsboro officials followed the letter of the law in preparing its annexation plan.

"The city has the position and the right to determine the area requirements and, if they meet the state requirements, it is up to the city to decide which area can be annexed -- not the people of the area," Everett said.

When the city drafted another annexation plan, Everett said the city followed every stipulation presented by the previous judge, and the annexation complies with every requirement.

"The area in question is annexed for urban area development under all three tests given by the state. You only need one to get the annexation. We used recorded property lines to determine the boundaries," he said.

Rowe described the studies the city undertook to verify that the land could be annexed legally. State law requires a population density of 2.3 per acre for annexation, he said. The Salem Church-Buck Swamp area has a population density of 2.73.

The law also requires that 12.5 percent of the land to be annexed must be contiguous to the existing municipal limits. The area proposed for annexation is more than 15 percent contiguous, Rowe said.

Rowe also described the city's plans to serve the area with street lights, water, garbage collection and fire and police protection.

Afterward, city geographic systems technician Jeff Cook described the surveying of the area proposed for annexation.

Eldridge noted that the residents already have the services provided to them by the county and the Belfast Volunteer Fire Department, which would be contracted by the city to handle fire calls.

"Services should be put in only if they are needed for the welfare of the public," Eldridge said. He said the changes would not benefit the residents and end up costing them more since they would have to pay city as well as county taxes.

"If you pay taxes and don't get much in return, it is a material harm," Eldridge said.

Eldridge said the city's aim all along has been to include the residential areas in the city tax base. He noted that the boundary of the proposed annexation area included parts of some subdivisions. To have included all of them would have upset the density and contiguous property line requirements set by law, he said.

Rowe said the law does not require that entire subdivisions be included in an annexation.

"It does affect the boundary that qualifies the area, but we don't have a law that says that we have to take an entire subdivision," Rowe said. "We came up with a boundary that qualifies and a boundary that qualified with the general statutes."

"There is no evidence at this point that this isn't a sound urban development," Everett said.

The trial was to continue today in Courtroom 4 at the Wayne County Courthouse.