12/02/11 — N.C. judge: No delay in annexation petitions

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N.C. judge: No delay in annexation petitions

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on December 2, 2011 1:46 PM

Wayne County Board of Elections staff members will continue to accept petitions concerning the deannexation of the Phase 11 area of Goldsboro since a request for an injunction to suspend enforcement of the law was denied in Wake County Superior Court Thursday.

Anthony Fox and other attorneys with the Parker Poe Adams and Bernstein law firm filed the suit on behalf of the cities of Goldsboro, Kinston, Lexington, Wilmington and Fayetteville Tuesday. The suit contends that the state laws allowing for the deannexation of properties from city limits are unconstitutional.

The lawsuit asks the court to enter a permanent injunction preventing the implementation and enforcement of the three laws reforming the annexation process and to declare the laws unconstitutional. It further asks that the results of the petition votes collected according to those laws be deemed illegal, null and void and seeks to have the state pay the court costs resulting from the suit as well as to award reasonable attorney fees to the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit claims that the legislation violates sections 11, 19 and 35 of Article I of the North Carolina Constitution "because it bases the right to vote on property ownership and denies all other city and annexation area residents the fundamental right to vote." The lawsuit later notes that not all of the residents of the annexation areas own land within the annexation areas, but stand to lose city services, such as police and fire protection and utilities.

Special Superior Court Judge William Pittman denied the injunction Thursday afternoon and scheduled a Dec. 15 preliminary injunction hearing.

But that might not be soon enough to keep the law from preventing the annexation of other areas into municipalities.

The Lenoir and New Hanover County boards of elections will begin reviewing the petitions next week. Ten days later, the results are due to the municipality.

In Wayne County, Board of Elections Director Vickie Reed said the petitions will continue to be counted until her staff is ordered to cease.

"We would not have stopped that process until we had been ordered to," she said. "We are accepting petitions as they come in."

The petitions are due back to the board by March 25.

After a 10-day review period, the Board of Elections will then notify the city of the outcome of the petition, meaning the Phase 11 area could no longer be a part of Goldsboro beginning April 4, 2012.

-- The Associated Press also contributed to this report.