07/02/06 — Residents to contest annexation outcome

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Residents to contest annexation outcome

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on July 2, 2006 2:11 AM

Less than one month since a judge ruled in favor of the city of Goldsboro, Good Neighbors United, a group opposed to the city's decision to annex the neighborhoods along Salem Church and Buck Swamp roads, will appeal the verdict.

In March, members of the group lost their appeal to prevent the city from annexing them in Wayne Superior Court.

Judge Ripley Rand ruled that Good Neighbors United failed to prove that the city's annexation plan did not meet state requirements for sound urban development.

Today, residents say the fight isn't over.

The case will now go before the North Carolina Court of Appeals, which is required to hear cases appealed from Superior Court, but no new testimony will be allowed. The Court of Appeals' decision will be based entirely on the information presented during the March trial.

Jim Eldridge, lawyer for Good Neighbors United, said Rand's decision did not address all of the claims presented. The findings of fact in the judgment do not appear to address all of the claims, which may not support all of the conclusions used to validate the annexation, he added.

Eldridge said he expect the appeals process to take about a year.

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

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

City officials argued that Goldsboro had meet those requirements, leading the neighbors to form Good Neighbors United in opposition. Once organized, the group 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.

If the neighbors didn't appeal, the city would have been able to begin the annexation process.

The total expenditures involved with the annexation are estimated to total more than $7 million. In the 2006-07 fiscal year budget recently approved by Goldsboro City Council, $850,000 was allocated for the initial annexation costs.

More than $600,000 of that amount would have been used to cover Goldsboro's mosquito control program, the installation of necessary signs and street lighting, three General Services employees and four police officers. The remaining money would 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.