Annexation foes expected to crowd City Hall
By Mark Wineka
Anticipating an overflow crowd at City Hall Tuesday, Salisbury officials are making plans to accommodate people who can’t fit into an annexation public hearing by providing a live video feed to the Civic Center.
But Mark Davis, president of the Good Neighbors of Rowan County, said his group has been encouraging all of its annexation opponents to go downtown to City Hall.
“We’re going to have at least 400 people,” Davis predicted.
Salisbury City Council will hold the official public hearing on the proposed annexation of the N.C. 150 area at 4 p.m. Tuesday in Council Chambers at City Hall, 217 S. Main St.
Council Chambers hold about 200 people.
City officials have encouraged annexation supporters or opponents who want only to listen to the public hearing but can’t find room at City Hall to watch the proceedings at the Civic Center, 315 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.
A large screen and seating will be set up at the Civic Center.
Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz emphasized, however, that people who plan to speak at the hearing will have to be at City Hall.
Davis said having some people go to the Civic Center doesn’t make it a true public hearing.
“We’re encouraging everybody to speak,” he said, “… so they can hear from everybody.”
Speakers at the public hearing will be asked to sign a sheet, which will help the city clerk have a record and correct spellings of names.
The order of speakers will be determined by their place in line behind a microphone set up at the front of Council Chambers near the City Council.
Each speaker will be given a three-minute time limit.
Kluttz said there will be no dialogue between speakers and the council.
City officials will require that the proceeding be orderly, Kluttz said, adding that they want to hear what people have to say.
Because there have been concerns about the public hearing’s 4 p.m. time and whether people could leave work to attend, council members promised they would stay for at least two hours, though they expect to be at the hearing longer than that.
Council has to stick with holding the public hearing at 4 p.m. and at City Hall because all of its legal advertisements have used that time and place.
The annexation proposal, which would add eight residential subdivisions, a portion of the Rowan County Airport and an estimated 1,699 people in the N.C. 150 area, has prompted strong opposition.
Residents have organized a group called Good Neighbors of Rowan County, which has set a goal of raising $100,000 to pay for a legal fight against the city’s involuntary annexation attempt.
On Wednesday, the group plans to take at least two buses of annexation opponents (97 had signed up as of Friday) to Raleigh, where the House Select Committee on Municipal Annexation is holding a public hearing.
The Raleigh meeting will be held at 5 p.m. Wednesday in the third-floor auditorium of the Legislative Building. The meeting location was changed to the auditorium because of the large crowd expected.
Co-chairmen of the House committee are Reps. Bruce Goforth, D-Buncombe, and Paul Luebke, D-Durham.
Rep. Fred Steen, R-Rowan, is a member of the committee.
Residents from the N.C. 150 area also have organized regular Saturday annexation protests on the Square in Salisbury.
The Rowan County Board of Commissioners has hired the same attorney as the residents to fight the annexation.
In addition, commissioners have asked the county’s legislative delegation to introduce a local bill during the upcoming short session that would place a moratorium on any involuntary annexation in Rowan.
Salisbury’s annexation, if approved later this month, would become effective June 30 if no legal challenge is made.
The Salisbury Planning Board, which would normally meet at 4 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, has relocated its meeting to Salisbury-Rowan Utilities headquarters at 1 Water St.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or email@example.com.