Chapel Hill mayor defends annexation

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy defended the state’s involuntary annexation laws Friday, but he said there’s a right way and wrong way for cities to go about it.
Foy, incoming chairman of the N.C. Metropolitan Coalition and a guest luncheon speaker at Salisbury City Council’s annual retreat, said it’s important for city officials to explain why they’re annexing.
What’s the rationale behind it? That’s a question city leaders should always try to answer for the people they’re trying to annex, Foy said.
A large involuntary annexation looms large on Salisbury’s docket in coming months.
Last week, City Council announced its plans to annex many of the residential subdivisions off N.C. 150 and an area around the Rowan County Airport.
The targeted neighborhoods include Woodbridge Run, Summerfield, Glen Heather, Windmill Ridge, Hidden Hut, Homestead Hills and Neel Estates.
In all, Salisbury has its eye on adding an estimated 1,699 people and 2,075 acres by June 30. An information session and public hearing already are scheduled. Council will hear the official annexation report Tuesday.
Foy, an attorney and law professor in his fourth term as Chapel Hill mayor, said cities need to guard the present annexation laws because they allow for managed growth and the hammering out of decisions at the local level.
He could point to many places in the country that wish they would have grown differently, Foy said.
Cities automatically face two reactions when they announce an annexation, Foy said. There are the people who are slated for annexation who say they’ll get nothing out of it, and the people already in the city who pay no attention to the process.
Foy said it’s important to engage both groups and explain why annexations are good for city residents and the people to be annexed.
He said the property owners to be annexed must have all the information and be treated with respect by the annexing city.
“We have seen annexations go awry,” Foy said, naming Carrboro, Cary and Fayetteville as examples.
The N.C. Metropolitan Coalition is made up of the mayors of the state’s 25 largest cities, including Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz.
Some eight years ago, the larger city mayors recognized they had different issues and concerns than many of the smaller cities and towns that make up the bulk of the state’s 535 municipalities.
Foy said North Carolina is not a state of big cities that are all the size of Charlotte. Chapel Hill has, for example, a population of 50,000; Salisbury, 30,000.
That said, the state is becoming more urbanized and increasingly facing issues that come with urban living, according to Foy. Demographers estimate that North Carolina will have an influx of new people equal to the population of South Carolina over the next 25 years.
“That’s what our future is,” Foy said.
The N.C. Metropolitan Coalition lobbies state government on specific issues, such as transportation and gangs. Foy credited Kluttz with being at the forefront of the coalition’s initiative for state anti-gang legislation that was passed by the House last year and is now in the Senate.
Kluttz said the state is changing and as more people live in urbanized areas, the coalition tries to make legislators understand what’s happening and how city issues affect so many people.
Foy said mayors in the coalition get to know each other personally. That’s a good thing, he said, because through the connections and sharing of information, whole cities become familiar with each other.
While North Carolina labeled itself once as the “Good Roads State,” Foy said it should aspire to be known as the “Good Transportation State.”
Transportation today and for the future has to go beyond roads, but “our philosophy doesn’t reflect that,” Foy said.
Transportation must include buses, trains, light rail, sidewalks, bikeways and greenways, he said, adding that this kind of variety translates to freedom and choices รณ the American way.
Foy complained of a disconnect on transportation issues between the state and local governments. Things show up on the state’s long-range Transportation Improvement Program that “we never heard about,” he said.
Foy expressed concerns that no new funding sources for transportation seem to be on the horizon, which is especially troubling given the population increase coming in the next quarter century.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or