The state House passed an historic and sweeping annexation reform bill, culminating years of work by grassroots groups seeking to have their rights restored.
“This is one big step in an historic direction toward the restoration of the rights of property owners in city-initiated annexation,” said Cathy Heath, director of the StopNCAnnexation Coaliton. “When the Senate passes this bill, it will be a momentous occasion in North Carolina.”
H.B. 845 passed by an overwhelming vote of 107-9. The North Carolina League of Municipalities, a taxpayer-funded lobbying organization for muncipal governments, which for years has thrawted any annexation law reform did not actively oppose the bill. Reform supporters believe that is because the NCLM feared that if this reform did not pass, another bill putting an moratorium on all forced annexations would.
Heath said the success of this seven year effort shows that when enough people come together for a common cause and can commit to however long it takes, they can accomplish good things. The bill now goes to the Senate, which is expected to pass it quickly.
The key provision of the bill would allow property owners in an affected area to stop a forced annexation if 60 percent of the property owners sign a protest petition. The bill would also require municipalities to provide free water and sewer hookups for property owners in the proposed annexation area.
Health said it took a change in the General Assembly leadership to reach this goal. Annexation reform bills were introduced in both houses within days of the opening of the legislative session. Several annexation moratorium bills moved quickly through the Senate, thanks to the support of Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger (R-Guilford) and Sen. Andrew Brock (R-Davie), Heath said.
House Speaker Thom Tills (R-Mecklenberg) took a different approach, Health explained. “He felt that getting right to the core of the issue with legislation that will put an end to forced annexation was what was needed and held off on the moratorium unless it became clear that city officials and their lobbying group, the NCLM (North Carolina League of Municipalities) were going to stand in the way of strong changes to the law,” she said.
Read a summary of the changes to the law on the StopNCAnnexation website.