Sunday, August 16, 2009

Letter from the Annexation Reform Grassroots:

From: Walt Wilson
Sent: Sunday, June 28, 2009 8:30 AM
Subject: Cutting My ties

If this is redundant, I am sorry, but I was not sure I sent it to you. I have sent it to a huge number of Newspapers across the state


To All in the Struggle Against Annexation;

After long and arduous thought, I have reached a decision that I plan to act on early next week. All my life I have been a registered Democrat, as my father was, as his father was, and so on. But, after seeing this unthinkable abuse of power by the Democratic Legislators this week as they took up the provisions of amending the outdated and one sided Annexation Laws, I must regrettably change party affiliation. The actions of these elected officials, some from our own district, was deplorable at best and insulting to the people who spent time, money and effort to try and make their wishes known to the House Members. I am ashamed to be associated with the party that harbors people of no moral compass. A difference of opinion is one thing, raping the innocent citizens of our state and stripping them of any rights in this matter falls under something else all together. How can these elected officials completely ignore the people who placed them in office? Have they no conscience left? You would think that they were on live TV, the way they performed like trained monkeys for the League of Municipalities. Their own feigned ignorance of the provisions of the bill under discussion were pitiful. If their actions were designed to fool someone, it failed miserably.

All I can say is I hope that the League has some open positions for these rouge representatives. Come election time they will need some form of employment, and it will not be in the same position they hold now. They may think we are all ignorant and willing to follow their every wish but that will soon enough be shown as a mistake on their part. Just so I don't miss the chance to say so later, goodbye Hugh Holliman, goodbye Stan Bingham. I want you both to know how much we appreciate the fact that you refused to come to the aid of the folks in Davidson County when they needed you most. Especially you Hugh Holliman. I have never been lied to with such grace. You must have a lot of practice at it, you did not flinch once while I spoke to you face to face.

The time for being nice and friendly is long gone now as the true colors of our elected representatives comes to light. It is quite apparent that unless you represent big money in some manner, you don't deserve to be acknowledged by the elected. Now I see where the city officials in Lexington were trained. That's ok. I was down and out for the day, but the sun will rise tomorrow and a new campaign will begin with greater motivation, the campaign to remove those useless officials from the State Congress and local City as well. We may not get what we need from you that sit in power today, but that can change also. We have linked, hand in hand with thousands of other like minded individuals across our state. We now have strength in numbers, and we will not let these insulting and corrupt actions go unanswered at the polls. We may even introduce legislation to dismember the League, that pit of vipers has existed far too long now. I send this out to all that care and several more that should care. We asked, we begged, we pleaded, we got nothing. Now the time has come to repay the kindness shown us.

Walt Wilson
Lexington, NC 27295

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Annexation Issue In the News Today

Interesting events today that draw attention to the annexation reform debate:

GOP lawmakers discuss property rights issues, death penalty, Democrats' 'incompetence'

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:34 AM

Republican legislative leaders used their regular weekly news conference to cover topics ranging from high-profile property rights legislation (annexation, eminent domain) to the death penalty to evidence of Democratic "incompetence."

Click play below to view the 25:46 briefing from House Minority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake, Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and Reps. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, Efton Sager, R-Wayne, Pat Hurley, R-Randolph, Curtis Blackwood, R-Union, and Dale Folwell, R-Forsyth.

Phil Berger spoke the most intelligently about the annexation issue.

Efton Sager was also excellent in his call for County oversight.

Blackwood did a good job highlighting some of the issues with meaningful services.

John Hood’s article today:

Patterns of Force
By John Hood

July 14, 2009

RALEIGH – Advocates of reforming North Carolina’s extreme annexation laws have long argued that citizens ought to have the right to vote on proposed annexations, as do most other Americans.

So when state lawmakers inserted a referendum provision into House Bill 524, the 2009 annexation legislation, they evidently expected that reformers would praise their decision. Instead, reform groups such as FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity-NC, the Fair Annexation Coalition, and the Stop NC Annexation Coalition have responded to the provision with skepticism if not outright scorn. Now, with the NC League of Municipalities hollering about the presence of any referendum provision and reformers cool to the sham referendum in the bill, there seems to be legislative support for simply excising it.

Read more here:


Post on the Locker Room Blog
by Daren Bakst

I Spoke too Soon about the GOP and Property Rights

Talking About Annexation on "Talking About Politics"


Daren Bakst and myself will be on the Lockwood Phillips ‘Viewpoints’ Radio show at 6:15

New information posted to the StopNCAnnexation website about forced annexations by Woodfin and St. James.

Catherine Heath
StopNCAnnexation Coalition

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Annexation Legislation Disaster

Well, there's nothing good that can be said about what happened today in the House Judiciary II meeting and the substitute annexation reform bill they unanimously voted for in the end.

I wish there were good things to say. And I wish they would have proven me wrong about how this latest look at annexation reform has turned out so far. But it is turning out just as I predicted when the Legislature embarked on yet another "study" of the annexation laws.

Daren Bakst at John Locke was listening to the meeting and he posted his thoughts about the meeting to the Locker Room Blog. I couldn't describe the meeting better than he did, so here the link:

This newsletter I sent out nearly two years ago, when the Study Committee was formed at the end of the 2007 Session of the General Assembly, seemed appropriate for re-publishing right now:

----- Original Message -----
Cathy Heath
Sunday, November 18, 2007 7:07 PM
Fw: Annexation Study Status


SNCA Update & Action Alert

Annexation Study Committee is Officially Announced

Speaker of the House Rep. Joe Hackney officially announced the formation of the Annexation Study Committee on Friday.

Details of the Committee’s agenda and the members of the Committee were included in the announcement. You can view the Legislative document online at
Below is the list of appointed members:

Representative Bruce Goforth, Co-Chair
Representative Paul Luebke, Co-Chair
Representative Larry R. Brown
Representative Nelson Dollar
Representative Earl Jones
Representative Louis M. Pate, Jr.
Representative Edgar V. Starnes
Representative Fred F. Steen, II
Representative Russell E. Tucker
Representative Trudi Walend
Mr. Douglas Aitken, Moore County
Ms. Judith Welch Wegner, Orange County

Seven of the Commission Legislators sponsored at least one annexation reform Bill. (underlined) Many of them put their name on several of the twenty-four Bills, written to reform forced annexation in various ways, which were introduced last session.

This is an encouraging departure from the numerous past studies of annexation that appointed few reform Legislators to the past committees.
These Legislators are carrying forward the thankless and mostly fruitless hard work of past Legislators who have tried to reform the annexation laws against heavy odds since the laws were enacted 28 years ago.

Two non-legislators were appointed to the committee; one being Mr. Doug Aitken of the Moore County StTOP group, representing his gated community of Pinewild, and who is also President of this same group’s fledgling Statewide Coalition effort, FAC. The Fair Annexation Coalition has lobbied hard since their inception in early 2007 to steer the legislative efforts toward another study. Looks like they’ve succeeded handily.

The second non-legislator on the committee is Professor Judith Wegner, the Burton Craige Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina, School of Law, the school’s former dean, and a former president of the Association of American Law Schools. She teaches State & Local Government Law at UNC, Chapel Hill. Ms.Wegner also put her name on a “friend of the court brief” filed on behalf of the City of New London in the infamous Supreme Court case; Kelo vs. New London, CT.
(Big gun for the cities perhaps?)

It will be interesting to see what does come out of this additional study of NC Annexation Law.
SNCA continues to have concerns, to say the least, about whether another study would achieve anything different than what has resulted from the numerous past studies undertaken.

If history is repeated in this current study, the results could be some minor tweaking of the laws for the affected property owners that wouldn’t amount to much change.
In these studies, the cities have ended up with expansions of their annexation power as a result of concessions they lobby for in the committee meetings. Your tax dollars at work folks.
(see the Resources Page of for the minutes of past studies)

Given the makeup of this new Study Committee, it should be interesting to follow and has the potential produce some surprises.

We will know come May 2008,…..but everyone needs to realize that to those who support true comprehensive reform that restores TO ALL of the people in NC, their right of consent to additional taxes and another layer of government, this study committee that we find ourselves with is going to require active ongoing input and participation.

The facts are this; once this Committee makes its final decision and recommends any changes, the General Assembly will be less open to considering any further needed changes for quite some time. If our game plan was to work on lobbying for incremental changes every legislative session, then another study commission is a major obstacle to that approach.

In order to persuade this committee to reform the law in 2008 in a way that would be acceptable to every affected citizen across NC it is CRITICAL that the many supporters of reform play a part by writing to legislators, attend the meetings at every opportunity, and be ready to present your case against forced annexation to the committee when you are given that chance.
This Committee needs to see the numbers of people who oppose forced annexation and hear their voice about what needs to change!

The broad based support of the goals of StopNCAnnexation over the last several years, you’re your coming to Raleigh for the annual ‘SNCA Rally in Raleigh’, to your timely responses to SNCA’s email update requests for letters and calls to legislators has made the real difference. Your grassroots activism has achieved the original goal of encouraging and motivating many more legislators to take a principled stand against the special interest lobbyists of the NC League of Municipalities. Every year for the last several years the number of introduced Bills has multiplied exponentially. Your years of committed activism has brought us this far. No one would like to see the momentum that has been built over time squandered by a study that achieves nothing comprehensive and substantial. It’s time to “raise the roof”!

We cannot let this study end up derailing the momentum for real democratic reform.
NO MORE “tweaks”!
NO MORE “givebacks” to the cities! The have lobbied for too much power already.
Restore to the people their pre-1959 right to have a say in the decision to be annexed.

I encourage you to stay informed about the Committee meetings and follow their progress closely. If you can in any way manage to attend any of these meetings, it would be a very important and useful thing to do if you care about changing forced annexation.
There will be committee meetings held in various places across the State to give more people the ability to attend. We all do need to take advantage of the opportunities when the meeting is anywhere closer to where you live. Numbers in the audience matters.

In order to keep you informed, I will be attending all of the meetings unless something unavoidable makes it impossible. the SNCA email list and website blog will be updated with a report on what the committee discussed at each meeting.
If you know someone who might not be on the SNCA list who has an interest in the outcome of this study committee, please encourage them to go to the website to sign up for the updates or email me with the request to subscribe.

This would be a good time to write to these Legislators and Speaker Hackney to thank them for the time and effort that they will be putting into a thorough examination of the practice of forced annexation in North Carolina. Let them know that there are many citizens watching what they do with careful interest and are expecting them to listen to the folks on the top of the State’s organizational chart, _ the citizens and voters of NC.

Also a word of thanks to Rep. C. Thomas for his hard work as a freshman legislator in support of reform.

In order to gather a show of widespread grassroots support for reform of annexation that SNCA can take to the Annexation Study Commission, SNCA will be adding to the website a place where you can sign up as a ‘Supporter of Reform’. Please encourage others to add their name to this database as show of grassroots support for more than just a few more tweaks to the law.

And please consider sending a contribution to support the efforts of SNCA in order to help make it possible to travel to the various locations where the meetings might be held, and to keep the StopNCAnnexation website resources online and available to annexation victims and supporters of reform across North Carolina.

The StopNCAnnexation website continues to be #1 on website searches for “annexation, NC”. The site is accessed by around 100 individuals a day who spend time looking for information.
You help to make this possible by financially supporting the expense of making these resources available.

Thank you,

Cathy Heath
Organizer, Chair, researcher, and webmaster

Friday, May 22, 2009

ETJ, Annexation, & Municiperialism

ACIR = Advisory Committee on Intergovernmental Relations; (A Federal level committee).

ETJ = extra territorial jurisdiction; (land outside the city limits that the city planners regulate by ordinances that the landowners being affected had no voice or vote to agree with them)

Municiperialism = (An assumption that city government should have priority in regulating and controlling land use and behavior of area landowners and citizens with or without their consent).

In order to understand the debate about land use planning just outside of city limits and who controls it, one has to look further up the chain of discussion about local government and land use planning.

There has been an ongoing debate raging for decades about metropolitan area governance and whether it is better to consolidate governance by transferring control to the existing cities or to encourage city/county consolidation or to allow the public choice option of having a metropolitan area fragmented into many small municipalities with tiers of regional authorities managing and providing infrastructure like transportation and water and sewer. The debate rages on with no real consensus. This has always been an issue that the ACIR includes in the reports that they put out. The ACIR was formed for the purpose of trying to resolve the roles and responsibilities of the Federal, State, and local governments and how they interact with each other. The existing cities would love to be given all the power and revenue.

What ever happened to local control and public choice about which of these governmental entities is ultimately regulating what the individual can do with his property? The growing intervention by the Federal government into local land use planning is very troubling to me. And the role of municipal corporations has been transformed to where far too much authority has been transferred to them for no good reason. WHY should a governmental entity that began as a voluntary association of property owners be given the authority to dictate land use outside of their corporate limits? Because the city said so? Who ordained the cities as the highest and the best choice for local government?

Where did the idea that cities have some moral authority to become a mandatory level of government, instead of voluntary, come from? The cities are getting away with this because WE let them and we buy into the idea that all land use must be predetermined by some higher authority. The city lobbyists have successfully elevated the cities above their proper place in the Counties in the minds of the State, if not as much in the Federal government. They are doing this by selling confusion and fear to our lawmakers using lies at worst and smoke and mirrors at best. What makes them so darn special that they should be allowed to do this?

The Counties have always been the local government entity tasked with the responsibility of administering the laws and services of the State of NC. The city lobbyists want to shove the County government into the back seat and impose themselves on landowners against their will.
Why should we accept this?

If the County enforces the building code, polices health, sanitation and safety, why do property owners have to be regulated by land use plans drawn up by a small group of bureaucrats who think they know best? Are individuals incapable of deciding the best use of their own land? Are entrepreneurs incapable of responding to market demands and providing services and amenities that others will want to buy?
Changing the annexation law is enough of an issue to work on by itself and we can do that without wading into the issue of making recommendations about who should zone and regulate landowners. There are Counties in this State that are full of property owners who feel no need to have their property regulated by zoning and land use ordinances and they actively oppose it. Do we want to lose the support of this large group of people who make up the base of support for putting an end to forced annexation?

I don’t. And I don’t see any compelling reason that the annexation reform movement should start making recommendations about who should be in charge of land use planning.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

More Annexation Reform Bills

We have three new Bills filed in the House aimed at reforming the annexation laws. All are good, but one is especially important for the citizens looking for real reform.

House Bill 645 was filed yesterday by Rep.'s Dollar, Steen, Goforth and Brown. The list of Representatives adding their names as Co-sponsors is growing quickly. Yesterday the list included Blackwood and now has grown to include Blust, Cleveland, McComas, Starnes & Stewart.

This Bill has been referred to Rules so we need to push hard to get it moving out of that Committee. It will go to Judiciary II which is Chaired by Dan Blue.

Fire up those keyboards and phone lines and encourage YOUR Representative to endorse this Bill in the House. While you are at it, contact your Senator too, and ask them to support Senate Bill 494 submitted by Senator Larry Shaw of the Cumberland County area.

These Legislators cannot be thanked enough for submitting these Bills and signing on in support. These two Bills are the ones that actually address the three key points for reform that we are looking for:

  1. Meaningful oversight _ by the County Commissioners who are directly elected by ALL the citizens affected by municipal annexation, city and county.
  2. Meaningful services _ services that do not duplicate or replace existing adequate services, public or private. Water and sewer all the way to the curb automatic if need can be proven. Cities have to be the actual provider.
  3. Meaningful voice and recourse _ the County would be given the authority to call for a vote of the people affected if objections are raised. If an annexation is approved but ALL urban services are not in place at the end of three years, the annexation area can petition for de-annexation.

Rep. Larry Brown filed two Bills that also address the way cities qualify and provide services.Thanks again Representative Brown!

Will it be easy to get these Bills through both the House and the Senate?
Not likely, so get ready and make a commitment to speak up loudly to all of the Legislators about passing these Bills.

And mark your calendar for the Rally for Reform in Raleigh at the Halifax Mall between the Legislative Buildings downtown. May 6th from 10 to 4.

Groups from all over the State will be gathering at the Halifax Mall with time to walk the halls of the General Assembly and talk to Legislators or drop by their offices with messages about the Bills we want to see enacted into law.

There will also be speakers in the afternoon, a chance to meet and talk with people from all over the State who share this goal of changing the annexation laws.

Last, but certainly not least, is the clear message that we need to send to Legislators and especially the North Carolina League of Municipalities.

The "League" will be in town the same day for their yearly Town Hall Day bringing hundreds of municipal officials for the purpose of promoting the agenda of the Municipal League.
On the annexation issue you can be sure that the "League" will not be representing us even as they are using tax dollars to lobby against us.

Help make this Rally the success that it needs to be in this critical year for annexation reform. Help fill the halls and cover the Halifax Mall with a blanket of red attire by attending. This year we need to break all records for attendance so there is no mistaking the level of support across NC for an end to the abusive practice of forced annexation.

Go to the StopNCAnnexation website for details on the Bills to change annexation law and to find details about the May 6th Rally for Reform;

Friday, March 13, 2009

Annexation Reform Bill Breakdown

The Bills to reform annexation law are rolling in now. The Joint Commission Bills have been filed and some are very bad and need to be opposed.

There 13 reform Bills so far:

Annexation Reform (or not)

1. H314, Edition 1 Annexing Across County Lines. [ HTML PDF ]
This Bill prohibits cities from annexing into another county. Brown and Tillis, 9 co-sponsors

2. H497, Edition 1 Annexation - Moratorium. [ HTML PDF ]
This "moratorium" doesn't stop current annexations, but it does require majority vote approval of any annexation that has an effective date after June 30th, 2009.
Annexations being challenged in court that postpone the original effective date would then be covered under this statute.
Joint Commission Bill

3. H498, Edition 1 Annexation - Vote of the People. [ HTML PDF ]
This Bill simply adds language to the existing statutes that would require a simple majority vote on city initiated annexation. Joint Commission Bill

4. H571, Filed Annexation - Moratorium. [ HTML PDF ]
This Bill is a moratorium on forced annexation. The moratorium would begin August 2009 and end in May 2010. A nine month moratorium that would not help those being forcibly annexed facing an effective date of June 30th, '09 Joint Commission Bill

5. H66, Edition 1 New Hanover Annexation Moratorium. [ HTML PDF ]
Local moratorium on forced annexation in New Hanover.

6. H158, Edition 1 Rowan Annexation Moratorium. [ HTML PDF ]
Local moratorium on forced annexation in Rowan County.

7. H172, Edition 1 Wayne Annexation Moratorium. [ HTML PDF ]
Local moratorium on forced annexation in Wayne County.

8. H525, Edition 1 Annexation - LGC and Already Served Areas. [ HTML PDF ]
This Bill gives the LGC the task of "assessing the fiscal feasibility" of forced annexations. No mention of whether the LGC can prohibit the annexation if the numbers don't add up.
StopNCAnnexation thinks that most of the people would rather see County Commissioner oversight.
This Bill also inserts a provision to exempt areas already served with public water and sewer from forced annexation.
It's odd how this VERY unlikely special exemption keeps coming up!
This is the "Throw All the Septic System Owners Under the Bus for the Benefit of a Few" Bill
This idea was first proposed at the beginning of the 2007 session by former Rep. Joe Boylan who won the Moore County District seat by defeating Richard Morgan. The idea kept coming up in the Joint Commission recommendations and the City Lobbyists seem to be only half-heartedly opposing it. With all the talk from the NCLM about how "that which is urban should be municipal" you would think that areas served with public water and sewer would be the areas that the NCLM would fight hard against exempting them.
The idea of giving a vote only to areas served with public water and sewer is also included in another Joint Commission Bill; H524. Very odd indeed.

9. S472, Edition 1 Annexation Changes. [ HTML PDF ]
This is the Tony Rand/League of Municipalities Bill!
The March 6th NCLM Bulletin announced that "their Bill" was going to be introduced and the March 13th Bulletin flat out claims S472 as the League's Bill.
This Bill is a horror of meaningless tweaks.
The changes are cosmetic; truly Lipstick on a Pig!

10. S494, Edition 1 Annexation/Meaningful Services & Oversight. [ HTML PDF ]
This Bill submitted by Senator Shaw is the one to get behind!
Thank you Senator Shaw!
This Bill would have the County Commissioners involved to approve or disapprove all city initiated annexations. It allows for a vote of the people being annexed if they voice objections at the Public Hearing.
It requires ALL cities to plan and deliver water and sewer TO THE CURB within three years if they want to initiate an annexation.
The Bill also raises the density and subdivision standard, eliminates different requirements based on the size of the city AND it provides a provision for the annexed areas to call for DE-annexation if the annexed area does not get ALL services within three years.

11. H524, Edition 1 Annexation - Omnibus Changes. [ HTML PDF ]
This Bill includes a lot of the recommendations that came out of the Joint Commission, but it doesn't claim to come from the Commission recommendations like some of the others do.
The Bill actually includes some of the recommendations that the Fair Annexation Coalition submitted to legislators. It includes recommendations that the NCLM supports, but the NCLM opposes this Bill.

  • StopNCAnnexation does not support the changes to annexation in this Bill.
  • SNCA does not support the idea of using the LGC for oversight.
  • SNCA does not support the idea of giving protection from forced annexation only to areas already served by public water and sewer and leaving landowners with good septic systems and well subject to forced annexation.
  • SNCA does not support the idea of paying the cities to annex areas in need. Cities were given the power to annex in order to fulfill the responsibility to extend meaningful services to areas that needed them. Why should they be paid to do what they were suppose to do in the first place?

This Bill does not provide any of the three recommendations from the people:
1. Meaningful oversight = County Commissioners who represent all the affected citizens
2. Meaningful voice = A vote and the approval or denial by County Commissioners
3. Meaningful services = Services that don't replace existing adequate services, public and private.

12. S148, Filed Annexation Referendum. [ HTML PDF ]
This Bill completely replaces the current annexation statutes with language that allows cities to initiate annexations BUT these annexations would have to be put to a vote of the people in the affected area. Senator Brock has filed a Bill like this EVERY YEAR since he was elected.
Thank you Senator Brock! THIS IS A GOOD BILL TO SUPPORT

13. S536, Edition 1 (= H552) Goldsboro Deannexation. [ HTML PDF ]
14. H552, Edition 1 (= S536) Goldsboro Deannexation. [ HTML PDF ]
WOW! The Wayne County Good Neighbors United Community that was annexed recently into Goldboro after a long and hard fight have matching Bills from their House Representative and Senator to DE-annex the area from Goldsboro!
Thank you Senator Rouzer and Representative Sager. Rep. Larry Brown put his name on this Bill too! Thank you once again Larry.

Annexation Mischief:

These two Bills are especially awful because they allow Southport to annex a shoestring of land belonging to Progress energy in exchange for protection against annexation for Progress Energy until 2071! Southport needs this shoestring to qualify an area beyond the Progress property for forced annexation. This forced annexation would be the financial ruin of a very well cared for Mom & Pop Mobile home park that is home to some senior citizens and disabled vets.

15. H347, Edition 2 (= S315) Southport Annexation Agreement. [ HTML PDF ]
16. S315, Edition 1 (= H347) Southport Annexation Agreement. [ HTML PDF ]

All of the following Bills expand the power of cities to create disorderly growth miles from the actual city limits:

17. H17, Edition 1 Asheboro Satellite Annexation.
18. S29, Edition 1 Norwood Satellite Annexations.
19. H336, Edition 1 Richlands/Satellite Annexations.
20. S393, Edition 1 Kannapolis Annexation.
21. H422, Edition 1 Kannapolis Annexation.

Soon there will be no limit to the amount of land that cities can have scattered around outside the city limits far into low density semi-rural to rural areas. And the limit on how far away these islands can be incorporated is now being extended. One city has the right to have 50% of the incorporated area of the city scattered out in unattached islands. This law started out with a 10% limit. Few cities are left that are still under this exemption.

What's up with this?

22. S432, Midway Community (Aberdeen) Annexation
. [ HTML PDF ]
Midway is one of those low income distressed areas surrounded by affluent towns in Moore County. These areas and the exclusion from annexation gained national attention during the 2005 US Open. This Bill legislatively annexes the area into the Town of Aberdeen.
Aberdeen does does not offer water and sewer utilities because the water and sewer in Moore County is provided by the County. I wonder how the people in Midway feel about this legislative annexation and the higher taxes it brings them?? Will they get something meaningful from Aberdeen in return for those higher taxes? Can they afford them?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Commission Recommendations to Reform Annexation in NC

SNCA Update January 25, 2009

So how did the Joint Commission do with the recommendations that were presented during the final meeting on Thursday in answering the call of the people for:

1) Meaningful oversight;
2) Meaningful services; and
3) Meaningful voice?

Hang in here with me _even if this analysis is long and sounds a bit pessimistic at the start. Being realistic and clearly looking at what we have and where we are is essential to knowing what we need to focus on in the upcoming Legislative Session. This dance is far from over and it's more about savvy politics than policy expertise.

We should let policy experts continue to do the excellent job they are doing with the issue while the grassroots stays focused on the political arena where we have an invaluable role to play.We've proven that all of us together can effect the conversation in the General Assembly about the annexation issue.

After my head stopped spinning from the confusion and chaos that dominated the way that the Joint Commission meetings transpired, especially the final meeting, I took a clear look at what happened and what we ended up with.

Most of the final meeting was spent trying to get through some tweaks to the laws that were proposed by various members, and as was admitted by the Legislative Aide, Steve Rose, "other speakers" to the Commission.
(Gee, I wonder who that was....could it have been _"The League"? )

The very first recommendation, which on the surface seems to address the "meaningful oversight" that the people were requesting, is to have the Local Government Commission (LGC) review city initiated annexations.
(Wow, the alarm bells were going off in my mind immediately.)

Let's look at the make-up of the LGC.
The LGC was created to oversee the balance sheets and borrowing of the local governments. They have done that well. Giving them the task of reviewing municipal annexations without any guidelines to determine whether the annexation should be approved will probably be beyond the Commission's ability.

In fact, it is very likely to end up with similar results to what we have already seen when the LGC was given the task of approving Tax Increment Financing (TIF) projects. The Roanoke Rapids Randy Parton Theater project was the very first TIF project that was given the green light by the LGC. That turned out to be a model of everything that could go wrong with a TIF project.

We need to take a look at just who are the decision making members of the Local Government Commission. I'll give that information to you straight and let you decide how this is going to work out for the two parties involved in a city initiated annexation.

"The Local Government Commission is composed of nine members: the State Treasurer, the Secretary of State, the State Auditor, the Secretary of Revenue, and five others by appointment. The State Treasurer serves as Chairman and selects the Secretary of the Commission, who heads the administrative staff serving the Commission. A major function of the Commission is the approval, sale, and delivery of substantially all North Carolina local government bonds and notes. A second key function is monitoring certain fiscal and accounting standards prescribed for units of local government...."

(The five "others")

Patrick Smathers _ Mayor of Canton, NC
Attorney; Governmental Law
2nd Vice Chairman, Region A, Southwestern Planning Commission
Ex-offico, Economic Development Commission

Mr. W. Calvin Horton _Chapel Hill Town Manager
retired 2008
Board Member - International City/County Management Association
Board Member (past) – Chamber

Irving Joyner
NCCU School of Law Professor – NAACP legal consultant

Allen Joines – Mayor of Winston Salem
Joines had served as deputy assistant city manager
Marvin Collins Distinguished Leadership Award from the North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association
Past Board member of the N.C. League of Municipalities and is the
Chairman of the N.C. Metropolitan Coalition, made up of the 25
largest cities in North Carolina.

John H. Zollicoffer, Jr. _Henderson City Attorney,
Municipal Law Atty

According to comments during the Joint Commission discussion of the LGC as the oversight body, this recommendation is supposed to be better than having the County Commissioners act as the third party in city initiated annexations. Someone claimed that the LGC would be less biased and more objective in representing the best interests of the affected property owners. (Who could say that with a straight face?)

The five appointed members on the LGC consists of lawyers, city bureaucrats, and unabashed associates/members of the North Carolina League of Municipalities (NCLM).
So the idea of LGC oversight was to address two of the areas of concern: meaningful oversight and a meaningful voice for the affected property owners. This recommendation gets an F- on fulfilling those needed reform areas.

After researching the membership of the LGC, I then went through the remaining recommendations that the commission waded through before voting on whether to recommend a moratorium or a referendum.
(You can read all of the amendments that were proposed on the agenda by downloading the document from the StopNCAnnexation website homepage: )

The recommendations from the Joint Commission sheet were cross referenced with the "20 point recommendations" that the NCLM presented to the Joint Commission at the December 17th meeting.
Six out of the eleven recommendations that actually passed out of the meeting for recommendations to the General Assembly were taken from the NCLM recommendations either unchanged or with slight alteration.
Six out of the eleven are just tweaks to certain areas of the law that will not significantly change the problems that we have with the laws that has caused the ongoing discontent since the laws were enacted, came to a head and brought us to where we are today.

The commission recommendations give us:

  • A very minor change to how the annexation victims are notified of their impending fate. (NCLM #2)
  • A minor adjustment to how we pay for those services that we never wanted or needed. (NCLM #12)
  • A minor adjustment to the density standard used to qualify the next victims of municipal takeover.
  • Minor adjustments to make it harder for cities to use "shoestring" or strips of land to take in areas. (NCLM #15 & 16)
  • Minor adjustment to recourse with the LGC if services are not fully provided.
  • An additional protection for large working farms from city regulation if the farm is annexed.
    (Shouldn't it be absurd that large working farms can be annexed in the first place?)
  • A lower threshold of necessary agreement in a low income area to petition for annexation. (NCLM # 19 & 20)

So what do we have left that could actually make meaningful reform happen?

The one recommendation to address meaningful services failed to pass but it was taken from the NCLM 20 point recommendations and fell far short of addressing the need to define what truly meaningful services are in the spirit of the NC Supreme Court ruling in Marvin v. Nolan. So the request to have meaningful services addressed by the Commission failed.

We have a recommendation for a moratorium, and that would be a fine tourniqet to stop the bleeding, but doesn't actually make any meaningful changes to the law itself.

We have a recommendation to exempt a small fraction of landowners from forced annexation, but the original subset of those who would benefit from this exemption was narrowed even further by the city advocates on the commission.
Recommendation III(C) is very similar to a Bill that was introduced at the very beginning of the 2007 long session by newly elected Representative Joe Boylan - HB 56. Recommendation III(C) doesn't have the Homeowners Association provision, but it is otherwise very similar. As passed by the Commission, a small number of situations where water and sewer treatment is provided by an third party utility provider would be exempt from annexation .
But, property owners with perfectly good private onsite septic systems are still subject to having their infrastructure replaced with municipal utilities that are not needed or meaningful, and costly at that.

The city advocates on the commission opposed Recommendation III(C) after insisting on amending it. Expect Recommendation III(C) to have equally strong opposition after it ends up in a Bill from both the city lobbyists and from others who feel that it unfairly protects only a small fraction of property owners.

The best thing that came out of the commission's recommendations for the pro-reform citizens and legislators of North Carolina is Recommendation VIII(A). Recommendation VIII(A) would return the right to vote on the annexation to the affected property owners. This puts the push for a vote of the people in a slightly better position than it was at the beginning of the 2007 Legislative Session.
But Tony Rand made it clear that he did not like this recommendation and it would not get past his desk in the Senate.

Does that mean we should throw in the towel because of that? Absolutely not!

We also need to get the reform legislators to rescue the need to deal with a better definition of providing meaningful, non-duplicating services and we need them to put third party oversight in place that really will provide a true representative voice.

Go back to the idea of using the County Commissioners to provide the third party oversight. They are the local government body charged with administering State laws and they directly represent ALL of the people affected by annexation decisions.

Keep calling and writing your legislators and the House and Senate Leaderhip as well as the Commission members so we can get meaningful reform instead of meaningless tweaks.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Some Cities Pull Back From Forced Annexations

The Town of Cary voted to abandon it's current forced annexation attempt.

The residents of the neighborhoods organized and made a very convincing economic and environmental argument against the annexation to the Cary Council.
Mark Winston and Ferris Chandler, homeowners in Brookridge, and leaders in the organized response to the annexation, were interviewed for

Cary and other cities just might also be facing up to the real costs of forcibly annexing.
Town Decreases Revenue Surplus Estimate

Goldsboro has announced that they have reconsidered the wisdom of moving forward with the next phase of their annexation plans. The cost of forced annexation is also a factor here.
Goldsboro News-Argus News: City says 'no' to more annexations ... for now

It would be nice to think that this realization on the part of City Councils that forced annexation is really a costly proposition when you factor in the long range costs will start a trend away from forced annexation.

Hey, Rocky Mount, Lexington, Asheville, Wilmington, Pinehurst, Oak Island, and others, follow their lead and join the trend!

I can dream, can't I?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Debating Annexation Law

No matter what your political pursuasion happens to be, if you are one of the thousands of people in North Carolina who now knows about the Annexation Laws of NC and are opposed to the concept, I hope that you will take the time to read some of the excellent work that the policy analysts at the John Locke Foundation are publishing about the annexation laws.

This State has been saturated for decades with rhetoric without substance from the NC Municipal League Lobbyists and helped along by the School of Government. (More about that in another post) Now, at last, there is somewhere else to turn to for some well researched analysis of the NC annexation laws.

First, I would recommend the "A Blueprint for Annexation Reform", written last month by Daren Bakst. Mr. Bakst is the legal analyst at JLF. You can read his 'Spotlight' about the paper and download the paper itself for reading later by using the link above.

This paper supports the growing consensus among more legislators about three key problems regarding forced annexation as it is being done by the cities, now 50 years from the time the law was enacted;

  • To provide a meaningful voice for the affected property owners
  • To define and require truly meaningful services in city initiated annexations
  • To create meaningful third party oversight of city initiated annexations.

The paper makes very good recommendations for reforming the laws. Every legislator who will be called upon to weigh in on passing good legislation to reform the law (and that would be all of them) should obtain and read "The Blueprint".

There is also an interesting post by Daren on the Locker Room Blog exposing some truths about the oft heard claim that NC Annexation Law is "a model for the nation".
Daren looked into this claim by researching the documents that were cited to back this claim and found some serious misleading going on with the claim.
"The Big Lie of NC Annexation: Exposed"

I'm pretty confident that there is a lot of fertile ground in the rest of those 'talking points' for uncovering more like this.

I'm counting on seeing more good stuff coming from the John Locke analysts like Daren about the annexation laws as well as more truth exposed about the "talking points" from the city lobbyists.

Thanks guys!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Annexation Law Tweaks vs the Truth

The NCLM had their usual say in the N&O recently:
How N.C. should tweak its annexation laws

The city lobbyists claim that the law requires cities to provide a long list of urban services, but the truth is not so simply stated nor the bar necessarily so high. What do the laws require of the cities? It depends… it depends on what the city has to offer in the first place. Each annexation requires different responsibilities from the annexing city because the law allows such a wide variation regarding what the city must provide. The law allows cities that don’t even have their own fire and police departments to forcibly annex.

Before the NC Supreme Court decided in the Marvin case that the city should at least have something more than planning and tax collecting, some cities could forcibly annex without providing anything but tax collection. Garbage collection, street lighting, road maintenance, parks and recreation, police, fire, water and sewer, or any of the other services that most people equate with urban living were not necessarily required. The Marvin case changed that to where now a city initiated annexation has to provide “meaningful” service to be able to forcibly annex.
The Appeals Court later allowed the Town of Weddington to call just the addition of a contract with the County Sheriff's a "meaningful" service that qualifies the Town to forcibly annex. This is a good example of the absurdity of the law.

The city lobbyists make claims that annexing cities must provide water and sewer within two years, but the truth is _ it depends. First, if the annexing city is a provider of water and sewer service, the annexation victims have to figure out, before the city even votes to actually annex them, that in order to have water and sewer lines brought to their property they must submit an application request for the services. The property owner has five days after attending the meaningless Public Hearing, where the victims get to vent their opposition in vain, to make a request for the water and sewer. If they don’t apply, the city can make them wait as long as it suits the city to bring the service to them. There are forced annexation victims who have been, or will be, waiting for better than fifteen years for municipal water and sewer. And they’ll pay dearly for these services that they probably didn't need in most cases. It doesn’t even matter if your septic system malfunctions in the mean time. If it does, the owner gets to pay for repairs to a septic system that will eventually be replaced.

The areas that the cities can annex don’t even have to be urban enough to require higher levels of police and fire protection or municipal water and sewer. Farms can be forcibly annexed! Rural areas that aren’t farms can be forcibly annexed. What about those urban density requirements or the subdivision requirements, you say? To hear the city lobbyists tell it, the cities have to show that the area meets both density and subdivision tests. The area must be “urban in character”. Not really. The formulas in the statutes are not that strict and are filled with either/or provisions. The city planners can exercise their creativity to make a desirable area qualify while annexing around areas that the city knows will cost them more money to serve because the area actually does need some city services.

When the 1959 legislature studied the idea of giving the cities the power to forcibly annex, they justified overriding the property rights of land owners with the excuse that cities were the providers of modern services that would improve the lives of people living outside but within reach of the cities. It was the familiar argument of giving rights along with concurrent responsibilities. Now, in these “tweaks” proposed by the ‘tin cup’ municipal spokespersons is a request for more subsidies from every taxpayer in NC to pay the cities to do the job that the law gave them the responsibility to do in the first place.

The city lobbyists claim that forced annexation keeps municipal bond ratings AAA. The truth is that NC instituted something unique during the 1930’s depression in order to keep the cities from spending themselves into bankruptcy. It’s called the Local Government Commission. Cities must submit financial reports to the LGC every year showing that they have balanced books and are solvent. This is what keeps the bond ratings high.
There are quite a few other States that have more cities with AAA bond ratings from one of the rating agencies and they aren't "forced annexation States". A couple have no annexation by cities at all. It's time to look elsewhere for the reason that cities have AAA ratings. Perhaps it just boils down to better fiscal management in general, and that is what the LGC helps to insure in NC.

An interesting pattern can be found in these records reported to the Secretary of State regarding most forced annexations. The forced annexations seem to take affect predominately at the end of June, which is the end of the fiscal year for municipalities. Why might that be? Is it for the benefit of the new taxpayer? I doubt that is the case. It’s more likely for the benefit of the municipalities by using forced taxation to apply a temporary 'band-aid' to the balance sheets.

One NC City I know well prepared an Annexation Feasibility Report in 2001; the report included an analysis of the annexation revenues versus the incurred expenses for each of the considered areas. Many of the areas showed that the total expenses of the annexations would exceed the total revenues from 9 to 85 years.
But property tax revenue would be collected immediately while the capital expenses could be delayed for years. The annexation would bring an immediate infusion of property tax revenue into the General Fund and would certainly make their financial report to the LGC look better that year. The city could worry about the additional expenses later, when any related bond debt came due. Then the city could patch the books again with another forced annexation. This appears to be a financial shell game made possible by forced annexation that is unsustainable. Delay the day of financial reckoning, but the day will come.
Forced annexation was not supposed to be about revenue enhancement or for patching up the 'end of the year' financial picture for the cities.

The city lobbyists say that cites must grow outward or die. With this statement, they are admitting to being a failure already. If they can’t honestly balance their books at the size they currently are, I doubt being bigger would make a positive difference. It would just delay the day of reckoning and make the city a bigger failure once the inevitable end of annexable area was reached.

NC Annexation Law needs more than tweaking. The NCLM has been tweaking it to the advantage of the cities for decades. The laws are now failing to fulfill the original stated intent of the 1959 Legislative Commission. Much has changed over fifty years in the area of modernization and private provision of safe and healthy living conditions. The cities need to move forward and face the future instead of behaving and thinking like we are still living at the turn of the 20th century.
No more tweaks.
Restore the pre-1959 rights of the property owners in order to reign in the inevitable municipal abuses of this power.