Annexation limits advance in legislature

Posted June 14, 2011 6:37 p.m. EDT

— A key Senate committee on Tuesday passed legislation that would give North Carolina homeowners a say in proposed municipal annexations for the first time in decades.

House Bill 845 would allow residents to block an involuntary annexation if 60 percent of the affected homeowners sign a protest petition. That reverses the practice towns and cities have used for years to grow.

"This certainly is a far-reaching bill," said Ellis Hankins, executive director of the North Carolina League of Municipalities.

Critics like Hankins said that blocking annexations will prevent cities from growing, and they will begin to stagnate.

"Over time, that's certainly going to mean we have less-healthy cities," he said.

Sen. Clark Jenkins, D-Edgecombe, said he doesn't like the prospect of absentee owners getting a vote in an annexation proposal.

"You going to have people getting a say-so in this that aren't even residents of the community or residents of the county, much less residents of the state," Jenkins said.

Residents, however, said they want to be able to choose whether they live within a municipality or not.

"It's fair to all. You have a choice. You have freedom," said Ken Sorenson, a resident of the Dutchman Downs subdivision, which is surrounded on three sides by Cary and also is close to Apex and Holly Springs.

"The area has developed over the last 40 years," Sorenson said. "We've been engulfed by development."

He and his neighbors want to remain in Wake County, he said, noting their property taxes would double or triple if they were annexed into a town.

No annexation also means fewer restrictions, Sorenson said.

"In Cary, you can't have a clothesline," he said.