Panel offers 13 recommendations on annexations

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Mark Wineka
RALEIGH ó The Joint Legislative Commission on Municipal Annexation saved the meatiest proposals for last in its final meeting Thursday.
The commission’s recommendations that will receive the most attention were the call for a moratorium on annexations until the current state laws are revised and allowing citizens in a targeted area the chance to vote an annexation up or down.
But for the first two hours Thursday, the commission debated 15 other broadly worded, sometimes confusing policy proposals related to involuntary annexations in North Carolina.
The commission ended the day with 13 total recommendations, each of which will be drafted as a bill for the pending legislative session.
Here are the 13 annexation recommendations emerging from the commission’s meeting Thursday:
– Direct the Local Government Commission to provide oversight of the municipal annexation process. The Local Government Commission would, for example, assess the fiscal feasibility of all proposed annexations. It also could prohibit future annexations by cities not providing services as outlined in their plans.
– Ensure notice to those affected by a proposed annexation by requiring certified mail.
– If water and sewer services are financed by assessments, require that the assessments be phased in over four to five years. Then provide a 20-year repayment period after a complete phase-in.
– Property owners would be given 45 days (not five) to request water and sewer services when an annexation is proposed.
– Areas to be annexed must be more urban in nature. For example: change the density requirement to 2.5 people per acre and change the “use and subdivision” standard to 65 percent of lots used for urban purposes (up from 60 percent). At least 60 percent of the remaining lots would have to be no more than 2 acres (down from 3 acres).
– Prohibit involuntary annexation into an area already served by a central water and sewer system not of the annexing municipality, unless there is 50 percent agreement of property owners..
– Curtail the use of “shoe-string” annexations, described as narrow, back-to-back annexations along a corridor.
– Prohibit splitting neighborhoods and subdivisions along individual lot lines and either annex all or none of a subdivision.
– Amend the law to facilitate the voluntary annexation of low-income areas.
The law now requires a petition from all property owners in an area proposed for annexation. The amendment would allow annexation to occur with a petition from 75 percent of the resident households in the area proposed, provided 50 percent or more of the households to be annexed have incomes that are 200 percent or less than the most recently published U.S. Census Bureau thresholds.
– The Local Government Commission should have the authority to abate all taxes if all services are not in place within five years of the annexation’s effective date.
– Prohibit new or revised municipal zoning regulations for any annexed farms that qualify for the present use value for taxation purposes, as long as the farm qualifies for the value.
– Enact a moratorium until the current annexation laws are revised.
– Allow a vote of only the citizens within the area targeted for annexation for or against the proposal.