One of the important things the Senate was able to accomplish this week was to tentatively pass two bills to protect the private property rights of North Carolinians against forced annexations. Forced annexations occur when cities and towns acquire unincorporated areas next to their existing territory without the consent of residents who live in the targeted areas. Naturally, municipalities choose to annex an area when there is potential for financial benefit. That often translates into thousands of dollars in additional taxes on top of “development fees” for certain services.
House Bill 5 exercises the General Assembly’s constitutional authority to establish municipalities and set municipal boundaries by de-annexing areas of Kinston, Lexington, Rocky Mount, Wilmington, Asheville (Biltmore Lake), Marvin, Southport, Goldsboro and Fayetteville (Gates Four) that were involuntarily annexed. The bill also prohibits these municipalities from forcibly re-annexing these areas for 12 years.
The legislature passed a compromise law last year to halt forced annexations if 60 percent of landowners in annexed areas signed a petition opposing it. Under the law, a town or city would not be allowed to try to annex that area for three years. However, a superior court judge struck down the petition process earlier this year.
To address the judge’s concerns, the Senate also passed HB 925 to require a referendum vote of an area’s registered voters – both landowners and renters – prior to that area’s annexation by a municipality. If a majority of voters oppose the annexation, the municipality may not move forward with an involuntary annexation process for a minimum of three years. This restores some democracy to the process, ensuring that residents in the areas to be annexed have a voice in the process.
Government officials should not have unrestricted control over someone’s private property – or their checkbook. These bills are an important step in restoring fair policies to protect property rights.