Towns come together on lines for annexation, development

Published 12:04 am Thursday, February 16, 2023

SPENCER — As communities throughout Rowan County continue to grow, a number of adjacent towns are coming to the table to iron out lines of possible annexation and development, and Spencer is no exception.

The town has been meeting with both East Spencer and Salisbury, with which the town shares borders and for which the areas of allowable annexation cross.

The state no longer permits involuntary annexations, so annexation can only come at the request of the owners and/or developers. In addition, the ETJ extends only one mile out from a town’s borders, and towns are allowed to annex only three miles out from their borders.

It can also mean that an ETJ line passes through an existing property, which could theoretically divide one parcel into two towns.

It can also leave two communities vying for the annexation of a property that is being developed.

Last year, the county provided maps indicating the lines of demarcation, showing where the ETJ lines would fall, and where the three-mile line would fall, then encouraged towns to get together to reach agreements on what, in reality, would be a better representation of the lines of annexation for each town.

In presenting the initial agreements Spencer has reached with both Salisbury and East Spencer, Town Planner Steve Blount said he was pleased with all towns’ willingness to come to agreement, which included several cases of keeping property together that would have been split by the original lines of annexation.

“East Spencer’s board has already agreed with the proposal we have with them,” he said. “My mayor and town manager convinced me to be a nicer guy, and what we have agreed to is in truth better for both towns.”

East Spencer Town Manager Michael Douglas said the agreement means “everything north of Long Ferry Road could be annexed by Spencer, and everything south of Long Ferry Road could be annexed by East Spencer.” He added that Blount had been “very pleasant to work with, which I appreciated, and I hope our negotiations with Salisbury can be as positive.” He said he is waiting to hear back from the town to begin conversations.

The Salisbury planning department has indicated, said Blount, that they are “OK with the proposal theoretically, but will have to take it before the council for formal approval.”

“I also want to remind the board that while this substantially broadens our ETJ, the town will not be actively seeking to annex most of this property,” said Blount. “But it does make it clearer going forward should development arise.”

“As our staff has worked through this, it has become clear that there is still a lot of ETJ in Spencer that is undeveloped,” said Mayor Jonathan Williams. “We need to be leaders in this process. We are not trying to make this any kind of land grab. We want to grow, but we want to do so in a controlled manner, within our means, and we want to foster good relationships with our neighbors as we go.”

The board voted unanimously to agree to the initial proposal and gave Blount the go ahead to continue to work on a formal agreement with the newly designated lines.