For cities and city residents, this short session of the General Assembly has been one knife in the gut after another.
Last year’s session started the bleeding, initiated by blind Tea Party anger at the state’s municipal annexation laws. The vengeful mood has not abated.
Most cities add land to their boundaries via voluntary annexation. A builder or developer will ask to be in the city limits and the city routinely approves such growth. Developers must meet city standards on roads, water and sewer and pay hookup fees for the latter. They pass along these costs when they sell the homes or offices to buyers.
Forced annexations are part of city growth, and they are never pretty. Those residents being annexed like the advantages of urban living—jobs, parks, paved streets, fire and police protection. But they almost never want the annexation because they must then pay city taxes and water and sewer hookup fees.
Under the state’s old annexation laws, municipalities had the power to annex as long as they met the law’s requirements to bring city services to the newly annexed in a timely fashion.
Residents being annexed had no vote. There was a reason for that. They would never approve it.
This process seemed unfair to such residents who turned their anger into Tea Party demands for freedom and the right to vote. Now, with the Republican controlled legislature, the anti-annexation crowd is taking its revenge on cities.
House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Phil Berger both live in cities. They know what these anti-city bills will do to the state’s cities, yet, disappointingly, they protest not.
The House adopted a bill that gives residents of proposed annexed areas the right to vote on the move. None will be approved, thus negating cities’ ability to grow in an orderly fashion. North Carolina cities soon will look like Swiss cheese pocked with un-annexed holes surrounded by city limits.
People in those areas will be getting a free ride from city taxpayers. Sort of representation without taxation.
To turn the knife more, the legislature now wants city taxpayers—who paid for their own water and sewer hookups—to pay such utilities for newly annexed residents.
Worse still, Republican legislative leaders want to de-annex parts of Asheville, Fayetteville, Kinston, Marvin, Lexington, Rocky Mount, Southport, Goldsboro and Wilmington. Goldsboro’s annexation was in 2008 and city taxpayers already have approved a $7 million bond issue to build new water and sewer lines.
Lawyers are going to love this legislation.
When the legislature finishes, it should pass a new bill to give city taxpayers a new title: Suckers.