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Other voices: Annexation moratorium makes sense

Some encouraging news came out of a special legislative committee that is studying municipal annexations. The study panel wants the state to enact a one-year moratorium on involuntary annexations.
While we’d like to see forced annexations banned altogether, this moratorium proposal is a step in the right direction.
We just think that the idea of “force” doesn’t mix very well with the idea of a free society.
It’s worth noting that a number of cities and towns across North Carolina don’t use the involuntary annexation powers that the General Assembly has given. They should be commended.
But those who do use such powers should stop. Unfortunately, the city of Kinston, which began procedures for involuntarily annexing three neighborhoods along U.S. 258 North last year, plans to continue the process, despite the call for a moratorium.
In fairness, Kinston has used its annexation power judiciously, but in recent years has viewed forced annexation as a way to combat a shrinking population and declining tax base. That’s typical. For decades, municipalities across the state have used this power as a growth tool. They decide property outside their corporate limits is ripe for annexation. So they vote to swallow tracts of land into the city.
The problem with this method is that those being annexed effectively have little they can do to stop this land grab.
In a free society, property owners should have the legal status that would allow them to choose whether to be taken in to a city or town.
That actually occurs quite often in North Carolina. Developers may be building an office park or residential community and believe that their projects will be more valuable if they have city services such as water and sewer or street lights. In that case, they will petition a city for annexation.
Likewise, an established community might desire the police and fire protection that a municipality has to offer and be willing to pay the extra taxes that annexation would demand.
Complaints are held to a minimum when those types of voluntary annexation occur.
However, when neighborhoods or tracts of property are taken in against the will of those being annexed, the complaints go up. People feel that they’ve been violated. They have.
Supporters of an involuntary annexation moratorium will likely have their hands full when the General Assembly comes back into session next month. Expect to see municipalities and supporters of this unfair growth tool fight the moratorium, or at least weaken it so that it’s rendered ineffective.
While we’d like to see an elimination of involuntary annexation altogether, a moratorium is a good first step.
ó Kinston Free Press

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