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Annexation moratorium picks up statewide support

By Jessie Burchette
Salisbury Post
Rowan County government’s fight against forced annexation has moved to Raleigh as residents and officials push for a statewide moratorium.
County Commissioner Jim Sides, who attended a meeting in Raleigh last week, told commissioners Monday night he is encouraged that the N.C. Association of County Commissioners may push for changes in the state laws governing annexation and may ask for a statewide moratorium.
During the Monday night meeting, several residents of the N.C. 150 neighborhoods originally targeted by the city of Salisbury spoke out, thanking commissioners for their stance against annexation while criticizing the city’s failed annexation effort.
Sides attended a meeting Friday of a subcommittee which is developing recommendations to the Intergovernmental Relations Steering Committee of the N.C. Association of County Commissioners.
Sides admitted he was skeptical at the outset, but came away encouraged that the subcommittee will push the association to back major changes in the state annexation laws.
Among the proposals is asking the General Assembly to create a joint committee made up of House and Senate members to review annexation laws. Such a committee would likely have more clout than the current Select Committee established by the Speaker of the House.
Sides said the subcommittee also indicated support for seeking a statewide “pause” in forced annexation until December 2010 to give the Legislature time to revamp the 50-year-old annexation laws.
Sides credited the large turnout of annexation opponents at a hearing in Raleigh with causing people to start paying attention on the state level.
“Sometimes it pays to go to Raleigh,” Sides said. But he cautioned that the battle to change the laws is just starting.
Chairman Arnold Chamberlain voiced some skepticism that the Association of County Commissioners will get into the annexation battle. But Chamberlain went on to credit Sides with swaying the five-member committee that includes three county commissioners and two county attorneys from across the state.
Speakers at Monday night’s meeting took notice of Salisbury City Councilman Bill Burgin in the audience. Burgin, an architect, was on hand to discuss his building plans for the county’s Social Services building.
Larry Wright, a resident of Neel Estates, cited Burgin’s comment at the April 15 City Council meeting that nearby residents placed a burden on the city’s infrastructure.
“Let me ask all the business owners in Salisbury. Should we continue to shop in Salisbury and ‘place a burden on the infrastructure?’ Or would you prefer that we heed Mr. Burgin’s words and shop elsewhere?” Wright asked.
Wright said Burgin maintained that those who live in proximity to the city need to share the load. “So Mr. Burgin, when will you be installing toll booths on highways 52, 29, 150 and 70? And don’t forget 85.” Wright went on to suggest that Burgin make a “sharing the load contribution” when he visits Spencer, Landis, Cleveland and other municipalities.
Wright concluded by challenging Burgin or any other City Council member to a debate on the topic, “Forced annexation is un-American.”
Louis Smith, a former plant manager of HBD Industries who projected the potential cost of the the annexation at $36 million a week or so before the city announced a similar figure, thanked commissioners for their support. He singled out Sides, Tina Hall and Chamberlain for joining annexation opponents in demonstrating on the town square.
Smith joked that while Sides and Hall were demonstrating, Chamberlain was eating hot dogs at Hap’s.
“I’ve got a reputation to uphold,” Chamberlain deadpanned.
Smith also vowed that the N.C. 150 neighbors will “remember their friends. We won’t forget.”
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254 or jburchette@salisburypost.com.

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