09/10/06 — Annexation opponents file petition with state Supreme Court

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Annexation opponents file petition with state Supreme Court

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on September 10, 2006 2:03 AM

Residents in the neighborhoods near Buck Swamp and Salem Church roads are continuing their legal fight with the city of Goldsboro over the involuntary annexation of their property into the city limits.

Good Neighbors United, a group of residents in the targeted area, filed a petition of discretionary review electronically with the state's Supreme Court last Sunday in response to the Court of Appeals August decision that the group could not contest the Lane Farms-Howell properties voluntary annexation.

North Carolina law allows municipalities to annex land, even if the residents don't want to be included in the city, if certain criteria are met. When Goldsboro voluntarily annexed the 359-acre Lane Farms-Howell properties, the city claimed it had enough contiguous boundary with residents in subdivisions northwest of Goldsboro to involuntarily annex the property.

Those residents, represented by the group Good Neighbors United, have argued that the original petition for the June 2002 voluntary annexation of the Lane Farms-Howell properties lacked all of the signatures required by state law to be approved by Goldsboro City Council.

The Court of Appeals ruled that the group lacked standing to bring that issue before the court, Good Neighbors United President Bob Pleasants said. So, the group filed a petition for discretionary review with the state's Supreme Court in the hopes that the court will address the validity of the Lane Farms-Howell properties voluntary annexation, he added.

Since the Court of Appeals decision was unanimous, the state Supreme Court is not required to grant a review, but the case will be issued to a Supreme Court justice in the next two weeks.

According to the state Supreme Court's clerks office, the petition will be held for 10 days, which is the time granted by the state for the City of Goldsboro to respond. Once a response is filed by the city, the case will be assigned to a justice. If the justice decides to hold a review, both sides will file briefs and a decision could be handed down within six months.

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

City officials argued that Goldsboro had met the state's annexation requirements, leading the neighbors to form Good Neighbors United in opposition.

The group then 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 Crow's ruling and drafted another annexation ordinance last July, the residents filed another petition, which led to the March trial.

After that trial, 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.

The residents appealed that decision to the Court of Appeals claiming that the Wayne County Superior Court did not address all of the issues presented. In particular, the findings of fact in the judgment did not appear to address all of the claims, which may not have supported all of the conclusions used to validate the annexation, said Jim Eldridge, Good Neighbors United's lawyer.