Annexation opponents leave no doubt on stand
By Mark Wineka
All walks of life stood before Salisbury City Council Tuesday to describe their opposition to the city’s plans to annex their homes and properties.
Retirees. School teachers. Company executives. Assembly line workers. Business owners. Pastors. Former city employees. Public officials. High schoolers.
And they spoke well into the night.
Opponent after opponent used his or her three-minute time limit to give their arguments against forced annexation while a patient City Council listened for more than four hours.
When the meeting ended just before 8:30 p.m., some 91 people had spoken ó all against the proposed N.C. 150 annexation that includes eight residential subdivisions and a portion of the Rowan County Airport.
For safety reasons, City Fire Marshal Terry Smith monitored the numbers of the standing-room-only crowd in council chambers. Folding chairs were available in the City Hall parking lot for those waiting to speak later who couldn’t find a spot inside.
Additional people who already had spoken or only wanted to listen, also caught a live feed at the Civic Center.
Some speakers pointed fingers. Some read from prepared texts. Others winged it.
The speeches, at times, became emotional. There was some anger with light-hearted moments sprinkled in, such as when Larrry Wright handed Mayor Susan Kluttz a copy of the book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
A few people called for boycotts of Salisbury businesses. Others urged the council to end the annexation now and save everyone a lot of time and money.
“Exercise the courage to admit this annexation is not the right thing to do,” Rowan County Commissioner Jim Sides said. “Admit this is not the right time to do it. Admit this is not the right way to do it.”
Several speakers promised if they became city residents, they would run for council.
Bill Owens, whose sword was taken away at the door, dressed in a red coat “of the King’s regiment” to remind council that everyone in the audience Tuesday was against taxation without representation, the most prevalent theme.
Speakers routinely summoned up the founding fathers and democratic principles on which the country was built.
Repeatedly, they said they should have a vote on whether or not they wanted to be city residents and that the council shouldn’t hide behind the state law giving them involuntary annexation authority.
“The word ‘forced’ doesn’t sit well with me,” a Hidden Hut resident said. “We live in a Democratic country.”
There were many other points sounded by the annexation opponents, who said:
– The annexation doesn’t make financial sense for the city.
“You guys are looking at a lot of debt,” Westmont resident Brad Farrah said, “and I’d be real concerned about that.”
– Current Salisbury residents won’t be able to afford it, and it will lead to higher city and county taxes for everyone.
– The timing is terrible, especially with pending layoffs announced last week at Freightliner and Performance Fibers.
“You are in a position to do the right thing in these troubled times,” said Parker Hatchett, a Windmill Ridge resident.
– People on fixed incomes are concerned they will have to move because the extra city taxes could force them out of their homes.
– The state’s annexation law is unethical and un-American. “It just doesn’t feel right,” Pastor Larry Bost said.
– Council should concentrate on making the existing city better before taking on new areas that it won’t be able to take care of.
“Grow with what you have, revitalize,” city resident Bruce Rogers told council.
– They chose to live outside the city. “I made that decision in 1970,” one woman said.
“We’re in the county, and that’s where we want to be left,” said David Holshouser, who learned last week he would be laid off in June from his job at Freightliner.
– The city isn’t offering them any services they don’t already have, except a city tax bill and thousands of dollars in costs if they want to connect to city water-sewer.
‘I didn’t move, the city moved,” Marie Howell of Neel Estates said.
– The annexation will force some people out of business.
Camelia Morrison and her husband operate Donnie Morrison’s Garbage Service of Cleveland, which serves many of the residents in the annexation area.
She said they stand to lose 39 percent of their business and income after two years, which makes it tough, she added, because they have a mortgage and a daughter in college.
– The whole annexation process has been handled poorly.
“The bottom line is, our voice has to be heard,” said David Beaver, a school teacher who lives in Neel Estates. He told council members he didn’t think they were monsters, “but somehow you’re not hearing what we’re saying.”
Gloria Matthews of Neel Estates said part of the city’s mission statement is to provide a positive business climate and economic opportunities for its citizens. A forced annexation is in direct opposition to that stated vision, she said.
For $150 a month ó what she and her husband would pay in city taxes ó Matthews said they will receive a recycling bin and maybe have a pothole in front of their home repaired.
Carl Eagle, another Neel Estates resident, said the city simply could not afford to run water-sewer to every home in the annexation area, and he told the audience, “Our ballot is the water-sewer request form.”
“It is your only vote on annexation,” he added.
Bruce Kolkebeck, plant manager at Baja, which was annexed two years ago, described the difficulties the city is having in getting sewer service to 12 parcels taken in by that annexation. The service has to be installed in 49 days or the properties annexed can file a claim for taxes they’ve already paid, he said.
Kolkebeck urged council to reconsider their annexation and finish what it has promised elsewhere.
“Even if you cut this annexation in half, it will require the largest municipal construction project the county has ever seen,” he said. “It also will be under the watchful eyes of people who didn’t want the services from the beginning, who are very mindful of their rights and are very upset that they have to go through this mess in the first place.”
Steve Moss, a Windmill Ridge resident, said he has yet to hear an honest, straightforward reason from the council on why his home should be annexed. “You’re not doing us a favor, and you will not be solving any of our problems,” he said.
Moss also complained that the 4 p.m. time for the public hearing and the small meeting room were disrespectful, demeaning “and certainly not welcoming.”
Wayne Mullis, whose family was the third to build in Summerfield long ago, said he has worked in the past to get some of the sitting council members elected.
“I have repented that, and the Lord has forgiven me,” he said.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or email@example.com.