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City Council opposes local annexation moratorium

By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
Charging the county’s legislative delegation is failing to treat Rowan Countians who live in municipalities equitably, Salisbury City Council passed a resolution Thursday opposing a local bill that calls for a countywide moratorium on involuntary annexations.
Peeved that local Reps. Fred Steen, R-Rowan, and Lorene Coates, D-Rowan, introduced the bill without notifying or consulting Rowan municipalities, the council also acted Thursday to e-mail the resolution to every member of the General Assembly.
“Please review the attached resolution and take action to remove this bill from consideration in the short session,” Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz said in a preface accompanying the e-mailed resolution.
The city opposes House Bill 2754, introduced Thursday morning, on these grounds:
– The bill is contrary to the economic interests of municipalities within Rowan County. City staff members estimated the number of Rowan Countians who live within municipal boundaries at about 58,000 people.
– The bill was introduced without the knowledge of Salisbury or Rowan’s nine other municipalities.
– The bill is “controversial in nature” and should not be considered in the current short session. Generally, legislators follow an unwritten rule not to consider controversial local bills in the short session.
– The involuntary annexation law, in effect since 1959, is a statewide issue “and should be uniformly applied across the state.” The local bill disregards the examination of the involuntary annexation question the House Special Committee on Municipal Annexation is conducting now. That panel has asked for a statewide moratorium.
Steen responded quickly when he received word of the Salisbury resolution and its distribution to fellow lawmakers Thursday.
In an e-mail to other legislators, Steen said, the Rowan delegation ó Steen, Coates and Sen. Andrew Brock, R-Davie ó was “in complete agreement” with the local bill, which went to the Rules Committee Thursday.
From there, the House leadership will decide whether it ever gets heard.
“We filed this bill on behalf of the economic interest of the county citizens who have begged for this legislation,” Steen said. “This is only a moratorium until next June until the Committee on Municipal Annexation can make a final recommendation to the full body upon further study.
“This bill was filed for Rowan just in case the statewide moratorium bill would fail.”
Coates and Steen are following through on a promise they made to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners to file a local moratorium bill in the short session.
That promise came when Salisbury was trying to annex close to 1,700 residents in the N.C. 150 area ó an annexation proceeding which the council later dropped.
At a Thursday budget meeting, Kluttz said she is concerned that Salisbury officials weren’t consulted about the local bill, and council members generally expressed the sentiment that Salisbury was being singled out.
Councilman Mark Lewis said legislators killed a proposed local bill to establish a Salisbury tourism development authority and allow the city to collect a 3 percent occupancy tax on hotel rooms because county commissioners objected.
Why don’t city officials receive the same consideration from legislators, who also represent people who live in municipalities, Lewis asked.
“That disappoints me tremendously,” Lewis said of the House legislators’ actions.
One section of the city resolution says, “The citizens of Salisbury expect equitable representation from state legislators,” and it asks “the Rowan County Legislative Delegation fulfill their duty of representing not only the interests of non-municipal citizens but also the interests of municipal citizens within the county and legislative district.”
“That one statement says a lot,” Mayor Pro Tem Paul Woodson said.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

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