07/26/11 — Petitions to ask if residents want to deannex

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Petitions to ask if residents want to deannex

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on July 26, 2011 1:46 PM

The Wayne County Board of Elections will mail out petitions to all real property owners in the area known as Phase 11 today.

The mailing comes five business days after the board received its list of property owners from the Wayne County Tax Office, as mandated by State Law 2011-177, formerly known as House Bill 56 or the Deannexation Bill.

Director of the Board of Elections Vickie Reed said the board received the list from the tax office last Tuesday.

The law states that annexations by municipalities in North Carolina are subject to a petition by property owners which, if 60 percent of votes aren't in favor of the acquisition, could block an annexation from occurring.

Residents in Phase 11, the collective term for the areas in the northwest portion of Goldsboro including the neighborhoods near Buck Swamp and Salem Church roads, will be retroactively allowed to petition its deannexation as part of a consolidation of several bills in the General Assembly concerning local deannexations.

Property owners will have 130 days in which to return their responses to the petition to the Board of Elections which begins a 10-day time frame for the board to communicate the result of the petition to the municipality. If more than 60 percent of property owners vote against the petition, the annexation shall be terminated and the municipality is prohibited from drafting a resolution of consideration for the area for at least three years.

Bob Pleasants, who has emerged as a spokesman for the residents of Phase 11 during the seven years since the city first proposed annexing the area, said in June he was confident that he and his neighbors would reach the 60 percent threshold, noting it may be as high as 95 percent.

The ordeal surrounding the Buck Swamp area began in 2004 when the city identified Phase 11 as part of its land acquisition plan. Legal fees in excess of $170,000 on both sides were spent in court as residents contested the annexation. The suit ended when the state's Supreme Court refused to hear the case, upholding a decision by the appellate court that deemed the annexation legal. It went into effect Sept. 30, 2008.

Given the current schedule, the earliest the city could find out about the result of the petition would be over the Thanksgiving holidays with the latest possibility being Dec. 6, though if the annexation is reversed it likely still won't bring this issue to rest. The city has hired an attorney to advise on the deannexation issue and possible legal steps for the municipality.