City will seek growth, but budget limits how
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 1, 2009 1:50 AM
A noncontiguous annexation request from Wayne County commissioner Steve Keen involving his 51.17-acre property on the south side of U.S. 70 just east of N.C. 581 has raised questions in recent weeks regarding Goldsboro's future annexation plans.
So before the City Council voted on whether or not to bring Keen's proposed shopping center site into the city -- the vote is scheduled to take place Monday evening -- elected officials and members of the city management team talked about their intentions and the progress being made in the recently annexed neighborhoods off Salem Church and Buck Swamp roads.
Planning Director Randy Guthrie said services are already being provided to Salem Church and Buck Swamp residents and that sewer plans are in the design phase.
But with more work to do in those neighborhoods, he, Mayor Al King, City Manager Joe Huffman and Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen agreed that now is not the time to talk about "the next" involuntary annexation.
"I think we have got to sit back and absorb what we've done," Allen said. "Plus, we know (the law) is going to change. We know it's going to change. So there's no point in us spending a lot of money to try and go out and start another phase until we know what the rules are going to be."
Particularly during the current economic climate, King added, when finding the funding for any project is difficult.
"There's not a heck of a lot we can do now because we just don't have the money to do it," he said.
But there are areas the city would eventually like to annex.
"What's important to us now, in my opinion, and what we need to be looking at ... is all these interchanges," Allen said. "Let's take Wayne Memorial Drive, for example. From New Hope Road to the new interchange, it's not but a mile or a mile and a half, but at least from an infrastructure and planning standpoint, that's where we ought to be concentrating because that's where all the growth is going to be."
Guthrie said there are clear distinctions between guidelines regarding voluntary and council-initiated annexation.
In Keen's case, for example, the land had to meet certain rules and regulations that relate to how far away from the city limits the property can be and how much satellite or non-contiguous annexation the city has.
"Under state law, you can only have 10 percent of the area of your jurisdiction be a satellite annexation area," Guthrie said. "We're way below that. We're at like 2 percent."
Having met the state criteria, the Keen property was then evaluated using a set of city guidelines adopted in 1988.
"If you're more than a mile from the city, we want you to be a longer tract, like 20 acres," Guthrie said. "Then we want to make sure there are public utilities like water and sewer available."
The city also ensures the annexation doesn't adversely affect the city's other annexation plans.
So when a request, like Keen's, comes before the council, it becomes a three-step process, Guthrie said.
The city evaluates the petition to ensure it's efficient, checks the site against those state and local rules and, then, sets a public hearing regarding the request. Members of the Planning Commission attend the public hearing and take into account any comments made and make a recommendation.
Allen wasn't shy about how he will likely vote regarding the Keen property.
"It's a win-win for us. We don't have any obligation to provide any infrastructure. He has got to get his water, his sewer, his roads, whatever. But what we do control are his development standards," he said. "And we're going to get the tax base off of it and we're going to get the sales tax. So, to me, it's a no-lose situation for the city of Goldsboro."
Forced or council-initiated annexation, however, is a different story, Allen said.
In addition to the fact that the law regarding the practice might change, the resources to complete another phase simply aren't there, he said.
And the process is much more complicated than a voluntary annexation request, Guthrie said.
To forcibly bring a parcel into the city, the property has to pass several tests involving urban density -- a population test, a subdivision density test, a contiguity test and more. The area also has to be unincorporated, and the city has to complete an annexation report and agree to be responsible for paying the rural fire departments and garbage collectors.
At least for now, forced annexation is not one of the issues at the top of the council's priority list.
But when it does move to the top of the list, one fact is certain, King and Allen said.
Despite fears to the contrary, the Rosewood community will not be forcibly annexed.
"All that annexation out there is voluntary. We haven't been initiating any of it and we're not going out there to initiate it," Allen said. "We have too many areas next to the city such as New Hope Road ... we have 20 years worth of annexations to do right now. Going across that river would be a land grab and that's what gets you into trouble. We would never do that. It's not even on our radar screen."
"I can tell you right now there is no intent, or future intent, of this city annexing Rosewood," the mayor said. "We have got so much more other stuff that we have been looking at that we want to do."
But that doesn't mean King and Allen share the feelings of some who suggest annexation is a "terrible thing."
"Some municipalities have not done a good job with annexation. I buy that," King said. "But we have done whatever we have been required to do. It's expensive, but we did it."
Huffman defended the process, too.
"North Carolina is unique. It isn't a big leap to tie our annexation laws to the growth of our cities, to our economic well-being. Local government are rated higher in this state than anywhere else. If you look at some of the areas that have limits on annexation ... if you look at Atlanta and that hodgepodge around there ... if you look at some of the neighborhoods in New Jersey ... those folks don't have the kind of laws we have got," he said. "Maybe some annexations should be protested. That's fine. But to eliminate the North Carolina laws because you don't like a particular annexation area to me is the wrong move."