Friday, May 16, 2008

"What Happened"..why it matters

First, UNC-TV is airing a show on the annexation reform debate tonight at 7:30 pm.
Advocates for both sides have been interviewed, so it should be interesting to watch.
The show is called 'North Carolina Now'; Legislative Review.

The post about the Annexation Moratorium Bill has people responding by saying that the exclusion of Satellite Annexations is not important since we are working for reform of Forced Annexation. This is true in a narrow way but there is more to consider here.

We can concede that satellite annexations can't be forced annexations as governed by the Statutes in 160A, and therefore shouldn't be relevant to our concerns.
Okay... except for the relevant fact that cities have been enacting ordinances making annexation of satellite areas MANDATORY _ and that the use of satellite annexation has contributed to the creation of those "dough nut holes" in the cities that the forced annexation apologists frequently bring to the table to defend the need for forced annexation.

These are the least of the points that have relevance, but these particular problems are getting bigger because the city lobbyists have expanded and overridden the original limits put on the use of satellite annexation. They have gained exemptions every year since the cities were granted the power to satellite annex. The cities originally could not have satellite areas that collectively exceeded 10% of the total central city or were located more than 3 miles from the actual city limits.

Since the original law was passed in the '90's, nearly every NC city has been granted exemption from the 10% limit. Now they are lobbying for extensions of the 3 mile limit and some cities have been granted this extended reach. More will quickly follow.
This policy flies in the face of two other excuses for forced annexation: "the efficient extension of urban infrastructure" and "orderly urban growth".
The city lobbyists have succeeding in having it both ways in the General Assembly.

Above and beyond all of this, the most egregious problem that the release of the Moratorium Bill language highlights to the citizens of NC is a lack of legislative process transparency and possibly a capricious disregard for legal procedure and the rule of law.

The last time the Municipal Annexation Study Committee met publicly, they voted to recommend a moratorium on involuntary AND satellite annexation. Period.
It was immediately obvious that the City Lobbyists didn't like the inclusion of satellite annexation in a moratorium. We all expected them to weigh in and oppose the inclusion of satellite annexation with claims that they are all voluntary in nature. But when they would be given this public opportunity to make their case, the proponents could also make the case to keep satellite annexation in the moratorium.

But when did that debate occur??? IT DIDN'T!! At least, not for our side it didn't.

How and when was the decision made to ignore the public vote of the Committee and erase part of what they voted for? Who was involved in this decision? Shouldn't this have been done during a publicly held meeting of the Committee?
This makes the proposed Bill's omission of part of what was voted on outrageous!
Most citizens suspect or know that the General Assembly is run by a few power brokers, but c'mon.... Why don't we just send most of the Legislators home for good and admit that the State is governed by a handful of people and be done with the pretense.

The debate over reform of forced annexation has been lopsided from the beginning.
During the few times that the Committee has met, outside of the Public Hearings, the advocates for keeping forced annexation have been given ample time in front of the Committee to give lengthy presentations. Professor Lawrence from the UNC School of Government was given an entire meeting to give a presentation that the legislators have heard numerous times before.
Granted, a refresher course is not a bad idea, but the S.O.G. is not reform friendly.
The School of Government is practically a creature of the NCLM and a entity that gives undue authority to the argument for Involuntary Annexation. The S.O.G. is not a fan of reform no matter how neutral and 'above it all' they try to appear.

Another meeting gave the Director of the NCLM over 30 minutes to repeat his well worn and shallow defense of Involuntary Annexation. The City Lobbyists can confidently stand in front of our legislators and declare what the will and will not tolerate.
The voice of the citizens are squeezed to snippets and dismissed as less important.

Hankins was preceded by an equally generous slot of time taken by the Charlotte City Attorney waxing poetic about how wonderful forced annexation has been for Charlotte. Having the Charlotte City Attn. speak was a blatant power play by the City Lobbyists. Having Law Professor, Judith Wegner on the Committee is another.
She is actively helping the cities and their lobbyists behind the scenes.

The pro-reform side has been left with Public Hearings that gave us 3 minute blocks to try and make a case against forced annexation. People have clearly done an outstanding job of highlighting the abuses in spite of the limits, and the letters to legislators are having an impact, but we also need time to make logical reasoned presentations.
When we finally were given 20-30 minutes at the last meeting where Tony Tetterton presented his excellent Power Point showing clear abuses, that was met with an arrogant protest with threats from the City Lobbyist/Attorney, Andrew Romanet. Romanet was not even corrected to state his name for the record when everyone else who failed to do that was.

Doug Aitken, the other non-legislator Committee member that the House Leadership has allowed our side to have actively included in the debate, has made a valiant and valuable contribution to the argument against forced annexation, but I suspect that he feels some marginalization regarding all of the discussions on the issue between the Legislators and others.

I'll wager that he was not even made aware of the discussions that led to the Bill language that we have going forward and only became aware of the change when he was sent a copy of the proposed Bill.

The fact that the citizens are being kept at an arms length at best, and totally in the dark at the worst, in regard to the discussion on reforming forced annexation, is what we should be standing up against as strongly or even more so than we are standing up and speaking up for real, meaningful change to the Involuntary Annexation Laws.

Enough of having the legislative process stacked against the citizens and in favor of special interests.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What Happened Behind Closed Doors?

The Draft language of the Annexation Moratorium Bill went out publicly today to a select audience. Here it is:

AN ACT to adopt a moratorium on involuntary
annexations, as RECOMMENDED by the House Select Committee on MUNICIPAL

The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:

SECTION 1. No resolution of consideration, resolution of intent, or annexation ordinance may be adopted under Parts 2 or 3 of Article 4A of Chapter 160A of the General Statutes from the date this act becomes law until June 30, 2009. If any annexation proceeding has been initiated under those Parts prior to the date this act becomes effective but the annexation ordinance has not yet been adopted, any provision of law requiring any action or notice by the municipality or any person within a certain period of time is tolled during the suspension of authority provided by this section.

SECTION 2. An annexation ordinance adopted under Parts 2 or 3 of Article 4A of Chapter 160A of the General Statutes that has an effective date on or after the day this act becomes law shall not become effective until after June 30, 2009, unless the municipality by ordinance adopts a new effective date later than June 30, 2009 for the annexation ordinance. An annexation ordinance that was adopted under Parts 2 or 3 of Article 4A of Chapter 160A of the General Statutes prior to the effective date of this act and is the subject of litigation in any court on theeffective date of this act shall not become effective until after June 30, 2009, unless the municipality by ordinance adopts a new effective date later than June 30, 2009 for the annexation ordinance.

SECTION 3. This act shall not apply to any annexation ordinance adopted under Parts 2 or 3 of Article 4A of Chapter 160A of the General Statutes that has an effective date on or before the day this act becomes law, if the ordinance is not yet effective solely due to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

SECTION 4. If any municipality has adopted its budget ordinance for the 2008-2009 fiscal year prior to the date this act becomes effective and the total amount of assessed valuation estimated in that budget ordinance has been reduced because of this act, the municipality may amend the budget ordinance to account for this act including establishment of a different tax rate.

SECTION 5. This act is effective when it becomes law.

So what happened to the Satellite Annexation Moratorium??
When did the Committee meet to decide to exclude this from the language?
Did their vote on April 23 mean anything at all?
Is this the way that things are done?
Now you see it now you don't?
I guess so.....

What else is scheduled to disappear behind the closed doors??

At least one Committee member is quite proud of the "NO" vote they cast regarding the idea of a moratorium and is actively working on behalf of the cities.
Hey Doug! We need you to lobby as hard for us!

The NCLM is busy collecting information from the cities showing how a moratorium would impact them. They will bring all this to the General Assembly as ammunition against our pleas to the GA to put a stop to the abuses of the current annexation laws.

Have you called or written to the House and Senate Leadership and your local Representative and Senator?
House Leadership, Joe Hackney 919-733-3451 Email:
Senate Leadership, Marc Basnight (919) 733-6854 Email:

List of Senators: here
Representatives: here

The House Select Committee on Municipal Annexation will meet Monday, May 19, 2008, at 4:00 pm in Room 643 of the Legislative Office Building.

Have you marked your calendar for June 4th?
See the information about the Rally @

Please come to Raleigh on that day for a Citizens Rally in Raleigh to counter the NCLM's Legislative Lobbying Day "Town Hall Day". We need to be there by the hundreds to make our voice even louder against the City Lobbyists.

Please consider donating to StopNCAnnexation to keep the website online and to help provide materials at the Rally and to continue providing help to groups fighting annexations.

Thank YOU!

Cathy Heath

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Senate Obstacles

This article interview of Sen. Rand clearly shows the attitude of the Senate leadership toward reforming the annexation laws. The Senate refused to cooperate with the House in 2007 on studying the annexation laws, and Rand's statements show that the Senate leadership has no real intention of turning it's ear from the City Lobbyists to the citizens of the State of NC.

Combine this with the recent interview of the House Leader Rep Hackney where he defers to the NCLM on the issue of froced annexation, and you can see that the citizens are going to have to rally an even larger show of force in speaking to these Legislators.

Fayetteville Online

Published on Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bill would put annexations on pause

By John FuquayStaff writer

RALEIGH — An annexation bill expected to be filed in the legislature’s short session could delay an expected showdown between Fayetteville and the upscale Gates Four community. If approved, the bill would place a one-year ban on involuntary annexations, giving lawmakers time in the January 2009 session to consider changing the law.

Fayetteville annexed 42,000 residents of western Cumberland County in 2005. Gates Four was excluded by a court-approved three-year delay. The delay is about to expire. The average tax value of a Gates Four home is $225,000. If the annexation goes through, homeowners would pay an average of $1,300 more in property taxes.

Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand questions whether the annexation bill even qualifies for consideration.
Short-term sessions — held in even-numbered years — are mostly for midterm adjustments to the biennial budget. Bills recommended by a study committee also can be considered, but Rand said the annexation bill was not recommended by a joint study committee of House members and senators. “I don’t know how it complies,” said Rand, a Fayetteville Democrat and chairman of the Senate Rules Committee. “It’s a House committee, so it wouldn’t meet our rules.” As Rules Committee chairman, Rand plays a powerful role in assigning bills to committees. He also believes cities should have the right to annex territory but said he would listen to opposing views.

As it stands, Fayetteville could begin the legal work of annexing Gates Four on July 1 and make the annexation effective no sooner than July 1, 2009. Those terms were reached in a 2004 settlement that stemmed from Fayetteville’s last attempt to annex the community’s 1,400 residents.

Rep. Bruce Goforth, a Buncombe County Democrat and chairman of the committee recommending the one-year ban, said the bill could be heard by the Senate if it passes in the House. “There is a lot of energy in the Senate on this,” he said. “It’s something that needs to be done.” The bill would halt forced annexations through June 30, 2009. Voluntary annexations could continue, Goforth said.

Fayetteville Mayor Tony Chavonne said the City Council hasn’t reached a consensus on the issue, but he expects the city staff will recommend annexing Gates Four sometime next month. At a council meeting earlier this year, three of the council’s 10 members opposed annexing Gates Four.

Cities annex property to manage growth. A state law prevented Fayetteville from annexing land for many years, and growth around the city occurred without zoning laws or paving standards.

Annexation opponents say residents often wait years to receive municipal services, such as utility connections, but they must pay city property taxes immediately. Other residents, such as those in Gates Four, say they already have utilities, trash collection, police and fire protection, and would gain no services despite paying higher property taxes.

While Fayetteville has yet to declare its intentions, Gates Four is bracing for another fight. “We’re assuming they’re going to start the process,” said Mike Molin, a Gates Four Homeowners Association board member. “If they start the process, you’ve got to find something to sue them over. That’s probably what we’ll do.” Molin said residents would prefer annexation by nearby Hope Mills.

Hope Mills Mayor Eddie Dees said the town has no jurisdiction over Gates Four, and annexation by Hope Mills would require legislative approval.

RELATEDShort money means a short legislative session
Staff writer John Fuquay can be reached at or (919) 828-7641.