02/26/09 — Local involuntary annexation ban bill hits N.C. House

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Local involuntary annexation ban bill hits N.C. House

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 26, 2009 1:46 PM

A bill that would place a temporary moratorium on involuntary annexation in Wayne County has passed its first reading in the state House and has been referred to the House Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations.

A favorable report would send the bill to the Local Government II Committee.

"I think it has a pretty good chance of passage," said Rep. Efton Sager of Goldsboro.

Sager, R-Wayne, filed the bill Feb. 17. It passed its first reading on Feb. 18. Rep. Van Braxton of Kinston, D-Lenoir, who also represents part of Wayne County, is a co-sponsor.

The House passed a bill to establish a moratorium on involuntary annexation during its previous session, but it was never acted on by the Senate.

Wayne joins a growing number of counties pressing for such moratoriums.

"I know of at least four others that have introduced bills," Sager said. "I did so at the urging of many citizens."

The moratoriums, he said, will give a state committee looking at annexation laws more time to examine the issue and come up with recommendations.

"I think even municipalities are seeing the need for revisions to be made (to annexation laws)," he said.

Braxton did not share Sager's optimism that the bill will make it to the chamber floor.

"The bill has been sent to rules, and I doubt it will ever come out of rules," he said. "The reason is that bills will be coming up in weeks to address the issue statewide.

"I don't think the House leadership will let individual bills be heard."

Braxton said the bills in effect make a local issue out of a state one.

He said the legislature probably won't proceed on annexation until a state oversight committee makes its findings. Then, he said, between two to four bills could be expected.

One bill is expected to call for the elimination of involuntary annexation, he said.

Any such legislation also would need to look at how to be fair to people living in the cities as well as those outside, Braxton said.

The state's annexation laws date back to the 1950s.

When the N.C. Association of County Commissioners held its annual legislative conference last month, annexation was on the minds of its members.

The commissioners adopted as one of their goals to seek legislation that would require a vote by residents in an area being considered for involuntary annexation before they could be annexed.

Residents living along Salem Church and Buck Swamp roads were embroiled in an annexation battle with the city of Goldsboro for four years.

They organized as Good Neighbors United and hired Wilmington attorney Jim Eldridge, who specializes in annexation laws, to fight the annexation.

The group lost its battle when the North Carolina Supreme Court declined to review the decision made by the state Court of Appeals that found in favor of the city.

Meanwhile, city officials have said they will hold off on any involuntary annexation pending the legislature's next move.

Sager's House Bill 172 would require that, "No resolution of consideration, resolution of intent, or annexation ordinance may be adopted" under state law from the date the bill becomes law until June 30, 2010.

It adds, "If any annexation proceeding has been initiated.... prior to the date this act becomes effective, but the annexation ordinance has not yet been adopted, any provision of law requiring any action or notice by the municipality or any person within a certain period of time is tolled (delayed) during the suspension of authority provided by this section."

Other provisions of the bill are:

Any adopted annexation ordinance that has an effective date on or after the day the bill becomes law would not become effective until after June 30, 2010. An exception would be if a municipality, by ordinance, adopts a new effective date later than June 30, 2010, for the annexation ordinance.

Any annexation ordinance adopted prior to the effective date of the bill and is the subject of litigation in any court on the effective date of the bill would not become effective until after June 30, 2010. The exception would be if a municipality, by ordinance, adopts a new effective date later than June 30, 2010, for the annexation ordinance.

Any municipality that adopts its 2009-10 budget prior to the date the bill becomes effective and the total amount of assessed valuation estimated in the budget has been reduced because of the bill, the municipality may amend its budget to account for the bill including being able to establish a different tax rate.