06/21/06 — Residents will weigh options in annexation

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Residents will weigh options in annexation

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on June 21, 2006 1:48 PM

Residents living in the neighborhoods near Buck Swamp and Salem Church roads are taking last week's ruling in the annexation case by Superior Court Judge Ripley Rand in stride, and will discuss the issue as a community before deciding to appeal, a Good Neighbors United spokesman said.

Bill Burnette, the person who formed Good Neighbors United in opposition to the City of Goldsboro's decision to annex the neighborhoods, said he, his neighbors and the group's attorney, Jim Eldridge, would need to review Rand's ruling thoroughly before making any decision.

"This will be a community decision. We've used that process from the beginning, and we'll continue to do it that way," Burnette said.

The neighbors have been fighting the city's annexation request for the past two years. In 2004, the Goldsboro City Council approved the first ordinance to involuntarily annex the neighborhoods.

North Carolina law permits municipalities to annex land, even if residents don't want to be included in the city, if certain criteria are met.

City officials argued that the city had met these requirements, and the neighbors formed Good Neighbors United in opposition and sued the city. In the first court case, Superior Court Judge Kenneth Crow ruled in favor of the neighbors, causing city officials to redraft the ordinance.

After city officials complied with the judge's ruling and drafted another annexation ordinance last July, the residents filed another petition, which led to March's trial.

Rand filed his ruling with the county's Clerk of Court office Friday afternoon. In his decision, Rand ruled that the petitioners failed to meet its burden of proof showing that the annexation would not provide sound urban development for the neighborhoods, the city could not provide major services to the residents and that the annexation did not meet state requirements.

The neighbors have the option to appeal Rand's decision within 30 days of its filing. Burnette said the neighbors would meet to discuss their next move within the next month. If the neighbors choose not to appeal, City Attorney Tim Finan said city officials and staff will begin the process of annexing the neighborhoods.

The total expenditures involved with the annexation are more than $7 million. The city has budgeted about $850,000 this year for the initial annexation costs.

More than $600,00 of that amount will be used to cover Goldsboro's mosquito control program, the installation of necessary signage and street lighting, three General Services employees and four police officers. The remaining money will pay for the installation of 110 fire hydrants and a statutorily required payment to the Belfast-Patetown and Fork Township sanitary districts that are currently serving the area.

If no further litigation is presented to the court, the city will also provide sanitation services to all residents and sewer services for the 29 dwellings that requested that service.