Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
Annexation is expensive.
A formal annexation report for the predominantly residential area along N.C. 150 says the city of Salisbury would have one-time start-up costs of more than $570,000, annual operating expenses of $1.1 million and a water-sewer installation price tag of $4.4 million.
Salisbury City Council officially received the annexation report Tuesday.
The proposed area would result in annual revenues to the city of $1,136,823, according to the report, and annual net revenues for annexing the area would be $33,588.
While city officials could shrink the size of their proposed involuntary annexation from what was presented Tuesday, they could not enlarge it.
“Basically, this becomes the official document of study,” Councilman Mark Lewis said Tuesday.
He stressed that accepting the report is no guarantee annexation will happen.
“As a banker, I have to get into the numbers to see if the cost benefits are there,” he said.
But Councilman Bill Burgin said he didn’t want the city to mislead anyone, either. Receiving the annexation report “moves us a step closer” in the state-prescribed annexation process, he noted.
“It has meaning,” he said.
A public information session has been scheduled for 7 p.m. March 27 at the Salisbury Civic Center.
Council will hold a public hearing April 8. Both meetings are required by law.
The city could adopt the annexation April 21, making it effective by June 30, provided there is no legal challenge.
But opposition is mounting and organizing quickly, similar to what happened in 1999 when residents in much of this same area challenged an annexation in court and won on appeal.
Rod Whedbee, a Salisbury resident who heads the Rowan Property Rights Alliance, spoke Tuesday during a public comment period at the end of council’s meeting.
He said involuntary annexation violates the basic civil and constitutional rights of citizens.
“If you continue to involuntarily annex citizens without their consent, then you cannot care about the citizens you say you serve,” Whedbee said.
He added that involuntary annexation is bad policy, duplicates services already provided and will tax the local infrastructure.
“I live in the city, and I have experienced firsthand the ‘city services,’ ” Whedbee said. “I am rewarded with high taxes, high crime and repressive zoning that overly restricts the enjoyment of my property.”
To say that the large annexation area is dominated by residences would be an understatement.
Of 948 parcels, 732 are single-family homes. And most are houses. The area includes only 21 mobile homes and three duplexes. It has only one institution (Neel Road Baptist Church) and only two commercially developed properties (Grindtec Enterprises and some empty greenhouses, both on N.C. 150).
A large chunk of land takes in the portion of Rowan County Airport not already in the city and is considered “governmentally developed.” Other undeveloped tracts to the east of the airport and to the south of Forest Glen and Summerfield are bridges between what already has been annexed by the city and the proposed area.
The annexation area would take in 1,699 people.
Salisbury would have to add at least a dozen new employees รณ five firefighters, four police officers, a code enforcement officer and two more equipment operators for street maintenance.
New city equipment would include four police cars, a code enforcement vehicle, a street sweeper, limb truck and snow plow.
Salisbury would take over 57 existing street lights.
The city also would take over the maintenance of 16.65 miles of streets, leaving only 2.82 miles as the responsibility of the N.C. Department of Transportation.
Revenue bonds would pay for the utility extensions.
For the annexation, Salisbury plans to install 11,000 feet of water main at a cost of $1.8 million and 14,000 linear feet of sewer outfall at a cost of $2.5 million.
The issuance costs of the revenue bonds would represent an additional $100,000.
The more than $1.1 million in annual revenues the city would see from the annexation area would come from a variety of sources including property tax ($648,572), sales tax ($235,081), utilities franchise tax ($117,571), Powell Bill funds from the state ($74,096), charges for services ($55,663), auto tax ($5,740) and privilege license ($100).
The big expenses associated with the annexation would come from an annual general fund payment of $293,439 toward paying back the revenue bonds, reimbursements to Locke Volunteer Fire Department ($246,962), Police Department operating costs ($222,740), garbage collection ($165,905) and street maintenance ($122,437).
Bill Duston and Greg Francis, who both represent the Centralina Council of Governments, presented the annexation report Tuesday.
Duston said the annexation proposes entering into a contract with Locke Fire Department for a five-year period to reimburse the fire department for tax revenues it would lose from the annexation area.
The annexation area has an assessed valued of more than $113 million. The fire district tax is 4 cents per $100 valuation. The annual fire tax revenues generated from the area are estimated at $45,331.
Duston said the city intends to contract with private haulers to provide garbage collection in this same area for at least the first two years after annexation.
Garbage would have to be collected for 759 households at an annual cost of $136,620. The city also would provide recycling, for which the annual cost would be $24,965, not counting $4,554 to purchase and provide recycling bins.
Annual collection costs for the church, one governmental property and two commercial properties would be $3,240.
To meet state law, the entire annexation area has to have at least 12.5 percent of its external boundary lines abutting the current city limits. Duston said 34.1 percent is contiguous.
Property lines and streets are used as boundaries, as required, Duston said.
The residential area proposed for annexation also has to have at least 60 percent of the lots developed, and at least 60 percent of the total residential and undeveloped land must be in lots that are 3 acres or less.
Duston said 78.6 percent of the lots are developed and 64.2 percent of the residential and vacant acreage are in lots of 3 acres or less.
Nineteen parcels qualify under a Subsection “d” part of the law. The entire Subsection “d” area, divided into two parts, is 429.7 acres.
At least 60 percent of the external boundary of the “d” areas has to be adjacent to the corporate limits or an area developed for urban purposes. Duston said the Subsection “d” area east of the airport is 100 percent contiguous, and the section west of the airport is 94.3 percent contiguous.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or