06/19/11 — Goldsboro residents can now deannex

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Goldsboro residents can now deannex

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on June 19, 2011 1:50 AM

Special to the Messenger

Homeowners living in the Buck Swamp and Falling Brook areas of Goldsboro have finally got what many of them have long been working toward -- the chance to get out of the city limits.

Annexed into Goldsboro in 2004, residents in the area northeast of the city fought the action through the judicial system until the state Supreme Court confirmed the lower courts' rulings supporting the city in 2008.

That, however, wasn't the end of it for Bob Pleasants and others who felt the city had overstepped its bounds by involuntarily bringing them into its fold, and earlier this year, when Republicans took control of the state General Assembly for the first time in 140 years, they took advantage of the new climate and sought legislation for de-annexation.

And on Saturday, the House voted for the final time, giving approval to a bill de-annexing the area.

"It will become law. It takes effect immediately," said state Rep. Efton Sager, R-Wayne, who, with Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir, had co-sponsored the bill.

"We're very excited, and we feel like justice has finally been done," Pleasants said.

Pleasants, who had been one of the leaders of the fight against annexation, said that a group of the residents were in Raleigh Saturday morning to see the measure pass, and were recognized by House for their determination and efforts.

It was, he said, an action that was a long time coming.

"It was a long process, and it was an arduous process," he said. "This week was an emotional rollercoaster for me. It's been a long haul."

For the measure to take effect, however, the residents of the affected area must produce a petition with at least 60 percent of the property owners requesting the de-annexation -- similar to the requirements of the new involuntary annexation laws that also were approved this session requiring that 60 percent of residents agree to an annexation before it can take effect.

Pleasants said he doesn't anticipate any problems meeting that threshold.

"I think we'll have 95 percent," he said. "We did before."

And, he added, he doesn't think the city will have much luck if it tries to restart the process again in three years.

"I don't think people will be amenable to being annexed into Goldsboro. We're nowhere near Goldsboro. We're not part of Goldsboro," he said. "I don't think they'd be interested.

"We never should have been annexed in the first place."

But, said Mayor Al King, the area was annexed and it was annexed in accordance with state laws, and that annexation was upheld at every level of the state judiciary -- making this legislation all the more bitter a pill to swallow.

"I think the state is disappointed, not just us. This has never happened before. We followed the law and this just shows that following the law doesn't always work," he said.

What makes it so difficult to accept, explained interim City Manager Tasha Logan, is that the city had already cleared all the possible hurdles and the annexation has been official for nearly three years.

Now, King and Ms. Logan said, the City Council will weigh its options -- whether to stand down and let the new process take its course, whether to pursue compensation for funds already spent in the annexation effort, or whether to pursue legal action to challenge the legislation.

"It's just a matter of us sitting down, looking at all the facts and the City Council deciding what the next step is for the city," Ms. Logan said.