Last year, the North Carolina legislature
failed to take any steps to meaningfully reform the state's outdated and
abusive annexation law. Next year, a new legislature with a completely
different political make-up will have its chance to reform the annexation law.
There certainly will be many annexation bills introduced, as is usual. There
may even be a bill that gains momentum. The bigger issue, however, is whether
the proposed reforms will be just a farce, as they were in the House-passed
524 in 2009, or whether they will be truly meaningful reforms.
This article provides some quick tips on determining what whether a proposed
annexation reform is true or fake.
True vs. Fake Reform
True Reform Regarding a Voice:
Property owners being annexed would be given a voice in the annexation. This preferably
would be a vote and, at a minimum, would provide the property owners a
representative voice by having the county commissions approve all
Fake Reform Regarding a Voice:
In providing affected property owners a voice in annexation, there would not be
unreasonable obstacles to obtaining a vote nor would municipal residents be
involved in the vote. In HB 524, legislators tried to make it appear that there
was a vote provision but made a vote a virtual impossibility and, furthermore,
included municipal residents in the vote, thereby making the vote more about
municipal residents than the affected property owners.
This is precisely the type of game that reformers need to watch out for and
reject. It is an insult to all annexation reformers.
True Reform Regarding Services:
A municipality should not be able to annex an area that does not need one of
the following core services: police, fire, water, or sewer. As annexation
victims know, cities will annex an area and justify the annexation because they
are providing unnecessary services, and even duplicating existing services.
Any reform bill should require that an area be in need of one of the services
and that the municipality can meet that need. A municipality should not be able
to contract out services to meet this requirement if the area could just as
easily contract out the services.
Fake Reform Regarding Services:
HB 524 and other annexation bills introduced in 2009 played a lot of games with
the concept of services. Instead of focusing on the services that an annexed
area needs, attention centered on what a municipality could provide regardless
of whether an area needed the service. That is precisely the incorrect way to
look at the issue; it makes it possible for municipalities to ignore the needs
of annexation victims.
There was language in HB 524 allowing municipalities to meet annexation
requirements even if they duplicated existing services.
One key red flag: If any bill uses the term "higher level of
service," this is an indication that municipalities will have to provide
just more of a
service, such as police protection, not necessarily better service or more
importantly, necessary service for an area.
When it comes to questions regarding services, ask the following questions:
1) Does the annexed area need police, fire, water, or sewer
service? If no, there should be no annexation. If yes, then there is still
2) Can the municipality, without contracting out the service,
provide the needed service? If no, then there should be no annexation. If yes,
then a municipality should be able to move forward with its annexation (there
would still be a vote).
True Reform Regarding Water and Sewer Infrastructure
Costs: Municipalities should have to pay
for the costs of bringing water and sewer lines to each property that is being
Fake Reform Regarding Water and Sewer Infrastructure Costs: If the legislature does not address this issue,
then it is not per se fake, but non-existent. There also could be attempts to
address this issue by covering only a small amount of the burden imposed on
property owners for having lines brought to their properties.
Please remember, the cities are the ones who initiate these annexations and
therefore should bear the costs. Also, protections need to be in place to
ensure that municipalities do not charge exorbitant tap fees or other related
costs to make up for having to pay for bringing water and sewer lines to each
More Fake Reforms: There almost
certainly will be attempts to address issues such as density and notice
requirements and other ancillary issues regarding annexation. If an annexation
bill did not address one of these pointless issues, then that would probably be
beneficial because it would simplify the annexation reform bill.
Annexation reform is not complicated! It is very simple. Legislators either
believe property owners should have a voice or they don't. They either believe
necessary services should be required or they don't. They either believe cities
should pay for water and sewer or they don't. Everything else is just window
We will see soon enough whether the legislature is genuinely concerned about
annexation reform or whether there will be more insulting games as there were
in 2009 with HB 524.
Fortune summarizes the Yadkin River fight
In what may be the best summary
of the Yadkin River controversy between Alcoa and the State of North Carolina,
Fortune magazine has an article this month summarizing the controversy.
Property rights don't outweigh public's right to enjoy beaches
As political change comes to
Raleigh, some in the new General Assembly may be tempted to tear down a
long-standing ban on seawalls and other erosion-diverting structures. It is
important that the new majority realize that the ban exists to preserve our
need better control over HOAs
Do you live in a planned
community? Most housing/condominium developments in North Carolina are and will
be planned communities. Within these communities the most powerful organization
is the homeowners association.
federal red tape, clearing way to easier annexation
It's a groundbreaking
accomplishment that has roots in the 1960s.
Kings Mountain became the first city in the nation to bail out from a
requirement previously mandated by the U.S. Justice Department.