Annexation changes 'punitive'?

Posted May 16, 2012
Updated May 17, 2012

— On the first day of the short session, the Senate held two committee meetings to fast-track legislation that would make new, more stringent changes to the state's annexation law. 

Last year, the General Assembly passed an Annexation Reform package, H845, that made a major change in the state's involuntary annexation law: it gave property owners in an area to be annexed the power to stop the process if 60% of them submitted petitions against it.

At the time the law was passed, nine cities had annexations underway. The cities took the state to court over it.

In March 2012, a Wake County judge found the provision unconstitutional. According to the judge, the petition amounted to an election, and the state's constitution forbids using the ownership of property as a requirement for voting. 

Today, the Senate rolled out its answer to the ruling in two bills. 

One, House Bill 925, makes three changes to the 2011 law:

  • Instead of a petition, cities would have to hold an actual referendum election on the annexation
  • The election would be open to all registered voters who live in the area, not just landowners.
  • And the threshold for disapproval of the annexation would be lowered from 60% to just 50%. 

If an annexation is rejected, cities would have to wait three years before putting it to a vote again. 

Senator Buck Newton, R-Wilson, sponsored the bill. He said it would put an end to the litigation over the constitutionality of last year's law. And he blasted cities for "wasting taxpayer money" to take the law to court in the first place. 

Tony Tetterton with the Fair Annexation Coalition was pleased, but a bit surprised by the turn of events. He said the Coalition would have preferred to restrict the vote to property owners. 

"We were looking for a more happy medium," Tetterton said. "We got a little more than that in that we got a vote. We really weren't expecting that."

"Obviously we're not displeased by that," he added. 

The second bill goes even further. House Bill 5 stops the nine litigated annexation projects by legislative fiat. Those cities would be forbidden from trying to annex those areas again for 12 years, instead of 3. 

Newton said the 12-year ban was the "consensus" lawmakers reached to give residents in those areas a breather.

"They’ve been yo-yoed around and run through the wringer for years and years and years, and they’ve paid a lot of money out of their pockets to fight this every step of the way," Newton said. "It’s time for them to have a break." 

"We could have done it permanently," Newton added. "Spaghetti dinners every month to raise the money to pay their lawyers through all this? It was time to take them off the hook."

Kelly Kukura with the NC League of Municipalities says the 12-year ban is just a way to punish the cities who dared to sue the state. 

"I don't think it's a good idea for legislators to set policy that is going to impact the state for a very long time to come based on anger or some misguided sense of retribution," she said. "That's not why we elect our legislators."

Kukura called the referendum rewrite "patently unfair" because it allows a minority - voters who would be annexed - to overrule the majority of voters in a city.

She said cities need to have the power to manage growth in a balanced way, and making that more difficult will hurt economic development. "Particularly now," added Kukura, "when we have such a need for attracting new employers, new industry, and for dealing the quality of life issues that we have across the state given the economy."

The two bills are scheduled for Senate floor roll-call votes Thursday and next Monday. They would then move to the House.


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  • Nancy May 18, 2012

    "I thought Bev had proposed to reduce it and cap it." - larvae

    They both did, legislature and Bev. But the legislature last session said it would be addressed when they convened, and they're living up to that promise.

  • biggie_smalls May 18, 2012

    Thank you Senator Buck Newton!

  • lovelarvae May 18, 2012

    If it was just a matter of paying city taxes that would be one thing. But the assessment fees for installing the infrastructure (which you have to pay whether you hook up or not) and the actual hook-up fees, etc. can cost over $20k above and beyond the new taxes to be paid (at least in Raleigh), which they will partially finance at 3-6%. If a city wants to involuntarily annex an area, they should have to pay for the up-front costs. Our neighborhood actually beat back Raleigh's attempt to annex us, but it took a lot of work and organizing, and a huge turnout at the city council meetings. This is one issue I am grateful that the Republicans have decided to address. There do need to be additional protections and rights for those who are being annexed, especially if the majority (or in our case 100%) are against it.

  • lovelarvae May 18, 2012

    "It's actually something Bev agrees with the legislators on, they will address and cap it this session. It was in the news more than once."

    I thought Bev had proposed to reduce it and cap it.

  • cwood3 May 18, 2012

    Remember Watergate-"follow the money". Well friends, why do cities and towns annex others into their town. Towns and Cities want their money-nothing more-nothing less.

    If I gain nothing other than a new tax bill-why do I want to be "in the city limits"?? I don't. This bill assists landowners in staying outside the limits unless they gain something from the additional taxes!!

    Towns-it's not just about you!!! It has to be a win-win-and the LANDOWNER needs to feel like they are gaining something of value for the additional taxes they must submit to the town.

    Figure it out!!! NOW!!

  • Nancy May 18, 2012

    "When are the repubs going to address the gas tax in NC? The rate is recomputed each quarter based on economic indicators. The dems turned the maximum allowable tax rate into the minimum." - water

    You need to read the news more than once a month ;)

    It's actually something Bev agrees with the legislators on, they will address and cap it this session. It was in the news more than once.

    Pay closer attention and shoot from your hip less, you'll be fine ;)

  • Nancy May 18, 2012

    "o stop cities dying as those that can afford to flee the city limits to get lower taxes do so. "

    You assume there is sufficient unincorporated development that it could drain a city of it's residents.

    Give me an example of a city that 'died' because of outflow of residents.

  • Nancy May 18, 2012

    "Its a good thing for many as it brings mains water and sewage, city cops, fire and trash collection etc."

    Not true. For instance, Holly Springs annexed an area with high value homes. What do they get? Trash collection and if they call 911, instead of the sheriff, they get local police.

    Everything else they already had (water, septic etc).

    Now, some annexations provide water after they run mains but the connecting lines (which you are then required to get) you must pay for, by the foot. If you have a long distance between street and house, it's thousands of dollars you're forced to pay after being annexed against your will.

    And no, I'm not talking about the need for that water, many times there is no need, just part of the push to grab income.

  • lec02572 May 18, 2012

    I love it!!! I have always thought it was wrong for cities/towns to be able to annex people without the approval of homeowners in the area bening annexed. If I wanted to be in the city I would not have moved out of it.

  • jdupree May 18, 2012

    Not so, this is Democracy at it's best. People who live/buy residences in the county do so because that is where they prefer to live. I have watched the Cities of Raleigh and Cary do fiscally wreckless things over the years and just don't care to be responsible for their wastefull and wreckless spending. An example is Cary's Amber Alert Signs at $25,000 each that are used every leap year and Raleigh's 400 million convention center. I am fine in the county!