by Daren Bakst
Senior Research Fellow in Agricultural Policy, Heritage Foundation
The North Carolina House may soon pass annexation legislation that would provide real annexation reform.
For more than a half-century, North Carolina has allowed municipalities to force individuals living in unincorporated areas to live within municipal boundaries. Property owners who made a conscious effort to live outside municipalities are forced not only to pay municipal taxes but also to give up their way of life.
Municipal zoning laws along with other restrictions undermine the very reason why individuals choose not to live within municipalities in the first place. Even worse, municipalities are able to force property owners to pay for water and sewer infrastructure, even though municipalities initiate the annexations and property owners aren’t in need of these services.
The new annexation bill, currently being considered by the House, would be groundbreaking in the fight against annexation abuse. Specifically:
The key questions are whether there’s enough time for property owners to oppose the annexation and whether the number of petitions required is reasonable. In both instances, the proposal certainly appears to be reasonable. Making it even more reasonable is the fact that petitions would be mailed directly to property owners, who in turn can mail them back.
It’s very important not to lose sight of the forest for the trees. By having a voice, this provides necessary protection for property owners. As I discussed with someone recently, an effective voice is the cake and the other benefits of the bill are the icing. I’d take it even further (since I like icing so much): A voice is the cakeand icing, and everything else is the cherry on top (assuming you’d put a cherry on a cake–just work with me here).
Even when a majority of property owners in an area haven’t requested water and sewer service, property owners that would like water and sewer can receive significantly discounted prices if the municipality decides to provide water and sewer service to the area.
There’s a lot to be happy about for those concerned with annexation reform. The House could soon take the first step in getting rid of annexation abuse.
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