02/07/07 — Court won't hear annexation case

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Court won't hear annexation case

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on February 7, 2007 1:59 PM

The North Carolina Supreme Court has denied a petition for discretionary review of a case involving residents fighting annexation by the city of Goldsboro.

Residents of neighborhoods near Buck Swamp and Salem Church roads had asked the state's highest court to hear an appeal from a Court of Appeals decision against them. But the chief justices decided Jan. 25 to not hear the case and let the Court of Appeals ruling stand.

The appeals court had decided that the neighbors had no standing to challenge the voluntary annexation of property between them and the city. That voluntary annexation of the Lane Farms-Howell properties set them up for eventual annexation.

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

Those residents formed the group Good Neighbors United to oppose the annexation and argued that the original petition for the voluntary annexation of the Lane Farm-Howell properties lacked all of the signatures required by state law to be approved by Goldsboro City Council.

But the Court of Appeals ruled that the group does not have standing to bring that issue before a court. Good Neighbors United President Bob Pleasants said he wasn't surprised by the Supreme Court's decision not to hear the case.

"We kind of expected it, but we wanted to give it a shot," Pleasants said.

City Attorney Tim Finan said he believes there aren't anymore avenues for the group to continue its fight.

"The state Supreme Court's made their decision and they're the highest court in North Carolina. Federal court usually doesn't involve itself with annexation cases because that's more of a state issue," Finan said.

But Pleasants said Good Neighbors United will continue to fight despite the Supreme Court's decision and continue to work on another case that is expected to go before the Court of Appeals this year. That case stems from Superior Court Ripley Rand's decision last March that the residents failed to show that the city's plan did not meet state requirements for sound urban development.

The neighbors have been fighting the city's annexation attempts for almost three years. They won a first round, when a Superior Court judge ruled the city hadn't done its homework in preparing its annexation plan. But the city came back with a second draft and it was approved by the City Council in 2005. The neighbors sued again and Rand ruled in favor of the city. The residents are now asking the Court of Appeals to review Rand's decision.

Pleasants said lawyers on both sides should soon be submitting their briefs for the Court of Appeals case. That decision could come near the end of this year, Finan said.