Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
Salisbury Post
County commissioners have fired a warning shot over the city of Salisbury’s latest annexation plan for the Mooresville Road area.
The annexation would take in hundreds of residents and properties.
The City Council is scheduled to consider a resolution of intent to annex at its meeting at 4 p.m. today. The actual binding vote is weeks away.
The area goes westward along N.C. 150 to Neel Road, taking in all of Neel Estates and many other subdivisions north and south on N.C. 150. The resolution also includes areas around the Rowan County Airport.
Commissioners Chairman Arnold Chamberlain said Monday afternoon that he strongly disagrees with the proposed annexation and that he plans to meet with city officials to register his complaint.
“I’m opposed to involuntary annexation, especially involuntary annexation of me. I’m in that map,” said Chamberlain, who lives in Neel Estates. He went on to suggest that the proposed annexation could send a school district into chaos.
Chamberlain added a thinly veiled warning that the annexation could affect other projects requiring cooperation between the county and the city, including a proposed convention/conference center and school administration building.
“We will take everything into consideration,” Chamberlain said.
He added that this would be a good opportunity for the city to be reasonable.
One by one, other commissioners weighed in, backing Chamberlain and stating their opposition to involuntary annexation. Several months ago, commissioners unanimously adopted a resolution opposing involuntary annexation and sent it to the county’s legislative delegation.
Vice Chairman Chad Mitchell said it appears there is nothing the county can do to stop this annexation, but raised the prospect of other options to stop future annexations.
“Salisbury is desiring our citizens; we need to speak up for them,” said Mitchell. He went on to say the county may need consider potential options proposed by Commissioner Jim Sides several weeks ago.
Sides said Rep. Fred Steen serves on special commission that is studying the state’s annexation laws. One of the options is to reinstate a provision that allows for a petition drive and a vote of the citizens to be annexed. That provision was removed in 1999.
Sides said it’s unfair that the county taxes residents to put in water and sewer lines that are then turned over to Salisbury รณ easing the way for annexation.
“We make taxpayers pay for their annexation,” he said.
Commissioner Jon Barber expressed concern that Salisbury’s effort will kick off a surge of annexation.
“This is a big issue for the county,” Barber said.
“That’s a huge area,” Chamberlain said, showing a colored map to the audience. “I repeat, huge area.”
“It was an eye opener,” said Commissioner Tina Hall, adding that hundreds of county residents are being left out of the process.
Hall and Chamberlain questioned why no specifics about the annexation plan were printed in the Salisbury Post. “You would think they would bend over backwards to let the people know,” Hall said.
The city of Salisbury did not provide a copy of the resolution or the map of the proposed annexation area to the Post in the agenda packet.
Contacted after the commissioners meeting, City Manager David Treme said there is no requirement that the city present the information with the agenda. He said the information will be presented to the City Council as a matter of courtesy at its meeting at 4 p.m. today.
Rod Whedbee, a businessman and an activist with local a property rights group, spoke during the public comment session at the outset of the meeting.
“We need strong leadership from the county,” he said. “You are our vote.”
He warned that many homeowners who are already having problems paying their mortgages will face rougher times when city taxes are added on to county taxes. “Stand against raising taxes in a bad economy,” Whedbee said.
Officials also noted the city will gain sales tax revenue that now comes to the county, based on the population distribution.
A public information session on the proposed Mooresville Road annexation area is scheduled for March 27 at 7 p.m., in the Salisbury Civic Center at 315 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. South (formerly Boundary Street).
The city council will hold a public hearing April 8 at 4 p.m. at City Hall, 217 S. Main St.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254 or jburchette@salisburypost.com.

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