06/14/07 — Residents want look at rules for annexing

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Residents want look at rules for annexing

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on June 14, 2007 1:46 PM

As state lawmakers prepare to consider a bill that would direct legislative researchers to study North Carolina's laws on annexation, rural residents and municipal leaders descended on Raleigh Wednesday to voice their concerns.

Among those arguing in favor of the study bill was Wayne County resident Bob Pleasants.

Pleasants, who has been among those fighting Goldsboro's 2004 involuntary annexation of about 1,100 residents in the Falling Brook, Ashby Hills, Buck Run, Morgan Trace and Perkins Road communities, helped lead a contingent of 26 residents to the public hearing.

The bill being considered is a rewrite of one that would have required annexations in Buncombe County to be contingent upon a public referendum.

Pleasants explained that it was his understanding that because that bill never made it out of committee, the representatives who were sponsoring it decided to completely revamp it into a study bill. Study bills can still be considered even after last month's crossover deadline.

As of yet, though, those changes haven't been made.

Still, Pleasants continued, Wednesday's meeting was helpful in informing legislators of their concerns.

Of the 48 people who spoke, 26 -- all private citizens -- spoke in favor of the study bill. Five, including Pleasants, were from Wayne County. The other 22 -- all municipal leaders -- spoke against changing the current laws.

"There weren't any normal citizens who spoke in favor of the statutes as they are," Pleasants said.

City and town leaders argued that they need to be able to annex unincorporated areas to help pay for services that are used by those areas' residents.

But the other side was equally as firm in the belief that the current laws are unfair because they don't allow residents to vote on plans to bring their property into a town's limits.

"It's not right. It's taxation without representation," Pleasants said.

Those pushing for the study bill also raised concerns about the timely delivery of services, the level of taxes and the requirement that only 12.5 percent of the annexed land's border has to be contiguous with the city.

All four issues are why he and others have filed suit to prevent Goldsboro's annexation attempt.

"We feel like (the city) is not offering anything we don't already have and besides, we're not really in the city anyway," Pleasants said. "There's no contiguity with any developed area of the city to begin with. It's just woods and fields.

"Our concern is that they've annexing us for other reasons -- more taxes and to manipulate the city's racial demographics."

That case is currently awaiting hearing before the N.C. Court of Appeals.

And while House Bill 86 may not ultimately affect what happens with their situation, Pleasants is hopeful a study commission will be appointed.

"I think the hearing went well. We had a lot of different speakers and they brought up a lot of concerns. I feel good about it. I think (the bill) will be rewritten and approved," he said.

Currently North Carolina is one of only four states that allows such involuntary annexation.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.