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Editorial: Annexation agitation

No one can accuse the Rowan County Board of Commissioners of wasting time on diplomacy. Chairman Arnold Chamberlain publicly threw down the gauntlet on a proposed annexation by Salisbury on Monday, and the rest of his board followed suit. Wisely, city leaders are not picking it up.
Commissioners sounded off the day before City Council approved a resolution of intent to annex more than 2,000 acres on the west side of town, the first step in a process that will take several months. The annexation process nearly always stirs angry reactions, but this may be the first time county commissioners publicly renounced a specific annexation before it even began. The resistance of people living in the affected area is understandable, since the short-term effect is to raise property taxes. But you’d expect the county’s political leaders to set the stage for a reasonable and fair debate. Instead, commissioners have vented in a way that’s bound to inflame citizens.
And just who are those citizens? Commissioner Chad Mitchell said his board should fight the annexation because the city is “desiring our citizens” ó an illuminating comment to the 30,000 Rowan citizens who happen to live in Salisbury. Ditto for the thousands who live in the county’s nine other municipalities. If they’re not also “our citizens” to Rowan County commissioners, they’re due a considerable refund on the county taxes they pay year in and year out.
Rowan commissioners are not alone in opposing annexation, just more pointed in their comments. The Davidson County Board of Commissioners approved a non-binding resolution Tuesday night against forced annexation in general ó one they intend to send to other counties, state lawmakers and the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners.
The anti-annexation movement is gaining steam. The Fair Annexation Coalition, a group that opposes forced annexation, made its presence felt at a Raleigh hearing last summer in which “homeowners from around the state booed at mayors and hissed at suit-wearing honchos,” according to a News & Observer report. (Again, no time wasted on diplomacy.) The coalition has convinced Joe Hackney, speaker of the House, to appoint a study commission this year to look at reforming the law.
But so far only the House has agreed to look at the issue again, and the study has not started. So opponents of the annexation currently proposed by Salisbury must focus their powers of persuasion on City Council. Notice the word, “persuasion,” not intimidation, threat or shouting volume.

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