Saturday, February 06, 2010

Position Statememt on Annexation Reform from the Grassroots

January 18, 2010                               DRAFT LETTER

Dear Senator,

North Carolina has one of the most extreme annexation laws in the country.  On behalf of North Carolina FreedomWorks and the # undersigned organizations, we urge you to fix this extreme law by supporting meaningful annexation reform in the upcoming short session.

The Senate can do what the House failed to do last year, and that is to pass a meaningful annexation reform bill.  The House-enacted bill, HB 524, “Annexation – Omnibus Changes,” addressed none of the reforms we sought, and even made matters worse than the status quo. 

For example, under existing law, municipalities are required to provide services that give annexed property owners a significant or meaningful benefit.  Municipalities often ignore this requirement by trying to get away with duplicating services or providing unnecessary services.  There is nothing meaningful or significant about providing unnecessary services.

Last year, we asked for a simple reform that would prohibit municipalities from meeting their legal obligations by duplicating existing services or providing unnecessary services.  Instead of doing this, HB 524 does the exact opposite.  The bill would clearly allow municipalities to forcibly annex property owners by duplicating services or providing unnecessary services.

At least under the existing statute, the North Carolina Supreme Court would have a chance to put an end to these games played by municipalities in regards to meaningful services.  HB 524, however, would take away that opportunity by legalizing these games.

Supporters say that HB524 is “a step in the right direction”.  While the bill includes some changes, the changes hardly constitute real reform or compromise.  For example, bill proponents tout its prohibition on shoestring annexation, but these types of annexations already are illegal according to the North Carolina Supreme Court in Hughes v. Town of Oak Island (The Court affirmed an Appeals court decision finding shoestring annexations to be illegal).  The legislature has tweaked the annexation law in the past and all it has done is lead to more opposition to the annexation law and more annexation abuse. 

We are extremely concerned about HB524 and the future of annexation reform.  The passage of meaningless reform will likely mean many years before we have a chance at meaningful reform.

In addition to requiring truly meaningful services, real annexation reform would include:

  • County Approval of Forced Annexations:  The county commissions should review and vote on forced annexations.  They represent both the municipalities and the annexation victims.  They also know the needs of the overall community and would provide annexation victims a voice.  Regarding a voice, municipalities oppose a vote and the citizens want a vote.  It is hard to imagine a more perfect compromise than having a representative voice through the county commissions.
  • Vote: A simple majority vote of the annexed property owners should be required.
  • Financial Obligation of Water and Sewer Infrastructure:  Forcing annexed property owners to pay for the infrastructure necessary for services they never even wanted or needed may be one of the most egregious and devastating aspects of the annexation law.  Costs imposed on property owners can exceed $20,000—for many property owners, these costs may be the difference between keeping their homes and losing them.
  • Municipalities initiate the annexations and therefore should be financially responsible for water and sewer infrastructure.  Citizens should pay for reasonable tap fees only if they choose to connect to the system.

There is an excellent bill in the Senate, SB 494, which addresses many of these reforms.  We ask that you work off of SB 494 in developing annexation reform.

Finally, we understand that there is a need for compromise.  The perfect is not the enemy of the good.  We are willing to work with you to craft legislation that will provide real reform yet take into account the legitimate concerns of municipalities. 

Thank you for your service to the citizens of our state.


Allen Page
State Director
North Carolina FreedomWorks
Kathy Hartkopf
Legislative Liaison
North Carolina FreedomWorks

John Locke Foundation
Stop NC Annexation Coalition

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