Raleigh, N.C. — People who live in unincorporated areas will be able to vote to halt forced annexations under a bill that legislators approved earlier and that Gov. Beverly Perdue said Sunday she will neither sign nor veto. .
The bill becomes law if the governor doesn't sign it.
"I recognize the need for some changes in the annexation process," Perdue said in a statement given Sunday to the Associated Press. "But reform should neither stifle the natural growth nor limit the role of local governments."
The new bill that Perdue refused to sign was passed in response a court ruling in March that struck down a petition process approved in 2011 to block such annexations because only landowners participated, not all voters.
In the petition process, 60 percent of landowners in the area being annexed could block the move. The new law allows a traditional referendum requiring a simple majority vote.
House members gave final legislative approval to the bill two weeks ago by a vote of 72-45, a margin that indicates they probably could have overridden any Perdue veto. The Senate vote also appeared to make passage veto-proof.
Perdue had the option of signing the bill into law; vetoing it or letting it become law without her signature.
Supporters of the legislation argued that cities have abused their annexation power over the years, that property owners have a right to be protected from cities trying to expand their tax base and that people should be able to choose whether they live within a municipality.
"It's fair to all. You have a choice. You have freedom," said Ken Sorenson, a resident of the Dutchman Downs subdivision which is near Cary, Apex and Holly Springs.
Perdue urged legislators to reconsider the bill, saying it provides no alternatives for managing urban growth. Also, she said the new bill still might not address the constitutional issues raised with the bill that allowed a petition to block annexation.
"Legislators do so in a way that promotes fairness for all parties and follows the law, and they should adopt an approach that includes tangible tools and policies that provide for long-term sustainable growth for our cities and towns," Perdue said. "That objective is in all of our best interest and should be immune from partisanship."
The North Carolina League of Municipalities criticized the bill Sunday, saying its leaders support Perdue's stance on the issue.
"North Carolina's cities and towns are home to almost three-quarters of our jobs," league President Latimer Alexander said in a statement. "It is time for the General Assembly to work in true partnership with municipalities to focus on increasing these jobs and on growing our state's economy. This legislation does just the opposite. It hurts business, economic development and our taxpayers. The citizens we jointly represent deserve and expect better."