State House wants to freeze involuntary annexations
The House approved a plan to temporarily freeze cities' and towns' ability to gobble up county land on Wednesday, following citizens' concerns that municipalities are abusing their power of involuntary annexation.
Members voted 98-18 to impose a nine-month moratorium on the local governments' ability to add to their borders without voter approval.
"Annexation of course is necessary for city growth," said Rep. Louis Pate, R-Wayne. "But I do believe that after 50 years, we may have strayed away from what the initial intent was with involuntary annexation."
Citizens and grassroots groups have lobbied lawmakers to strip municipalities' power to add land to their borders without a vote of the affected residents.
They've complained that some cities and towns don't follow the law requiring notice and public hearings on the expansions. Others say involuntary annexation is "undemocratic" because residents are powerless to stop it.
But local officials say the 1959 involuntary annexation law allows them to manage population growth effectively.
The proposed freeze would give lawmakers time to study the state's annexation law and propose changes, said bill sponsor Rep. Bruce Goforth, D-Buncombe.
"We need to take care of our cities, we need to see 'em grow, but we need to see 'em grow in the right way," Goforth said.
House lawmakers also delayed the start date of the moratorium by one month. It's now scheduled to go into effect at the end of August. Goforth said the delay would give officials time to complete involuntary annexations that they've already started.
Last month, House members trimmed the original proposal for a one-year moratorium to nine months.
But the North Carolina League of Municipalities is still opposed to the bill, which they say will hinder local officials' ability to regulate growth.
"The delay, it still doesn't fix it," said League attorney Andy Romanet.
The plan now heads to the Senate for consideration.