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House Approves Annexation Reform

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RALEIGH, N.C. - The North Carolina State House of Representatives approved two bills Tuesday May 29, concerning reforms to the State's forced annexation law. Collectively the two bills put a halt to the City of Wilmington forced annexation of the Monkey Junction area and prohibits a number of municipalities from attempting the same for 12 years. Another bill refines language forcing any annexation to go to the voters. The bills are in response to a court ruling in March of this year by Wake County Superior Court Judge Shannon Joseph. In that ruling, Joseph ruled that legislation passed last year by the republican dominated general assembly was unconstitutional.
In that 2011 legislation, at least 60% of parcel owners would be required to sign and return a petition to the County Board of Elections in order for forced annexation plans to be terminated and prohibited for a number of years.
A number of North Carolina municipalities challenged that law saying it violated the state constitution because it essentially set up and election only permitting property owners to be involved while excluding those renting or leasing properties in the area to be forcefully annexed.
Judge Joseph is married to Ripley Rand, son of then long time state senator and majority leader Tony Rand who long opposed changing the state's 1959 forced annexation law instead siding with cities and towns desiring to use the law to expand their limits imposing taxes often with little or no increase in services. For Wilmington, some services are already provided by the County.
On May 29, House Bill 925 passed 72-45 requiring voter approval of a referendum of the affected voters in the area proposed for annexation.
That vote margin gives Governor Bev Perdue ten days to either sign the bill into law, veto the bill or do nothing and allow it to automatically become law without her signature.
House Bill 5 reads in the title, "An act to exercise the power of the General Assembly under SECTION 1 OF ARTICLE VII of the North Carolina Constitution to fix the boundaries of cities and give such powers to cities as it deems advisable by DEANNEXING SPECIFIED LOCAL INVOLUNTARY ANNEXATION areas, by repealing specified involuntary annexation ORDINANCES, and by prohibiting municipal initiation of any PROCEDURE to involuntarily annex those areas for twelve years." The nine counties impacted by that law are: Rocky Mount, Fayetteville, Asheville, Goldsboro, Kinston, Lexington, Wilmington, Marvin and Southport.
House Bill 5 passed by a vote of 66-50 and reverses the City of Wilmington's efforts to forcefully annex the Monkey Junction area along Carolina Beach Road and College Road and prohibits attempts for 12 years.
The City of Wilmington has already spent funds on planning for the annexation. They claimed that residents would enjoy an improved fire insurance rating and therefore realize a reduction in homeowner’s insurance premiums.
Also, they advertised additional services including police, trash pickup and improvements to water and sewer infrastructure. Most of which the residents in Monkey Junction already enjoy.
Wilmington claimed, " Approximately 83% of all sales in New Hanover County occur inside the city limits. Last year, the city received only 23% of sales tax collected in the county" and that, "The majority of facilities for top employers are located in the city limits, including New Hanover Regional Medical Center, Corning, PPD, Verizon and UNCW. The downtown Riverwalk is the area's #1 tourist attraction. Also, our historic downtown, shopping and other attractions bring thousands of visitors each year."
The City of Wilmington recently began police patrols and adopted zoning districts and regulations in anticipation of a status quo based on hopes the Bills will not become law.