07/01/12 — Deannexation takes effect, residents no longer part of city

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Deannexation takes effect, residents no longer part of city

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on July 1, 2012 1:50 AM

Goldsboro's city limits shrank this morning and its population today is about 1,100 less than it was Saturday now that a state law officially deannexing the Phase 11 area from the city's jurisdiction has taken effect.

It seems to be the final chapter in the eight-year saga that began when the city sought to annex an area along the Buck Swamp and Salem Church roads northwest of the city in 2004. Residents protested and sued the city, to no avail -- in 2008 they became Goldsboro citizens.

But the fight did not stop and the reluctant city dwellers enlisted the help of Republican lawmakers who favored limiting the power of local government.

Political might led to a local bill that was approved by the GOP-dominated Legislature this year. It prevents Goldsboro from considering the area for annexation again for 12 years.

The last city service -- garbage collection -- ended Friday.

The escape comes as vindication for Good Neighbors United, the group that formed to fight the annexation and would not quit.

"We feel like justice has finally been served," said Bob Pleasants, group president. "It's just unfortunate that it took eight years for our position to be vindicated. I think the right thing happened."

Pleasants said he believed the taxpayer money spent by the city to defend the annexation was a needless expenditure -- the city spent more than $180,000 during the first legal battle and racked up even more during the most recent lawsuit -- but said the issue was simply a matter of government exceeding its authority.

"Mainly, folks are just very happy that those trash cans have been picked up and the recycling bins have been picked up and we're no longer faced with those taxes," he said.

State Rep. Efton Sager, a former county commissioner who championed the legislation, said he also was happy that deannexation day had finally arrived.

"I'm just real pleased that the day has finally come that those people can get treated fairly," he said.

But reforming the state's annexation laws in a separate bill was just as important, the Republican said.

"I'm glad we finally got the annexation laws changed across the state where its not as easy for municipalities to annex people," Sager said.

The new state annexation law requires a referendum involving the residents of the potential annexation area before any involuntary annexations.

"Everybody should have a voice," Sager said.

Sager rejected opponents' arguments that stifling annexation would lead to stunted development. He said other states have cities that grow despite limits on involuntary annexation.

One result of the new law going into effect is that deannexed residents who voted in the city's election primary in May will not be allowed to cast ballots in the municipal finale July 17.

Whether the change will affect city elections, though, remains an unanswered question.

Mayor Al King, who was listed as a plaintiff in the city's legal challenge of the first annexation reform law, faces Henry Jinnette in the mayoral race. Jinnette has spoken out against the forced annexation.

"My chances of winning are great either way," Jinnette said Friday. "A lot of (the deannexed residents) said that they would have supported me but I can't depend on them now. I think I'm going to win either way, with or without. That's my idea -- that I'm going to win, but I've been wrong before. I hope I'm right this time."

King said he didn't see the deannexation affecting the outcome at all.

"I don't really think it will make a big difference really," he said. "That's my feeling. No one knows, but I just don't think it will."

In the annexed area's former district race, the candidates both seemed to draw similar conclusions. District 3 Councilman Michael Headen, who has voted against the annexation during his tenure, faces challenger Kyle Pritchard in the election.

"I honestly don't feel that it will have a big implication because I spent a lot of times in both parts of the district," Pritchard said. "I actually feel that, even without that area, it's still going to be a good race. The main thing is I'm glad they (the denannexed residents) got what they wanted."

Headen said he will take a wait-and-see approach to the vote.

"I'm sure there's always a chance that the ruling will have implications as far as the overall outcome of the election," he said. "I supported that group out there and I continued to support them until the very end. Even though I campaigned out there I wasn't surprised."