It’s time to grow

Published 5:05 am Sunday, June 3, 2007

By Staff
When a city begins talking about annexation, many people who live just outside that municipality’s limits begin talking, too.
They talk about not wanting to be “taken over” by the city. They talk about not wanting to pay city taxes and fees. They talk about not needing services provided by the city.
But in many instances, these people are receiving some city-provided services such as water and wastewater treatment. Many of them live in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, which means the city’s zoning ordinances, building codes and land-use plan apply to the areas in which they reside. Those ordinances, codes and plan help protect them from unwanted development such as a hog farm, noisy industry or gunpowder factory being built next door to them.
Washington is studying whether to annex five areas that are eligible for annexation outside the city limits. Cities and towns view annexation as a way to grow in size and increase their tax bases. Annexation is seen as a way for a city to increase revenues, even if it must provide certain services to annexed areas. Annexation can add open space to a city’s land inventory.
During a City Council planning session in February, Mayor Judy Meier Jennette acknowledged that many reasons for annexation would be “revenue oriented.”
At that planning session, Councilman Archie Jennings said he understands that many people view annexation as a “land grab.”
During an annexation discussion during a council meeting last fall, Jennings said he considers annexation a way to increase the city’s tax base and enable the city to grow. Forced annexation should happen only if benefits the city would receive from annexation outweigh expenses — such as providing fire and police protection, water and sewer service — associated with annexation, he said.
Jennings is right. Cities and towns should be able to grow. That growth helps spread the tax burden borne by residents.
Many of the people who live in areas targeted for annexation use many services being paid for by city taxpayers. Take Brown Library for example; nearly two-thirds of its patrons live outside Washington’s city limits. Those people aren’t paying taxes to help operate the library. That cost is being borne by city residents and taxpayers. They also make use of the city’s parks and recreation programs, also paid for by city residents and taxpayers.
People who choose to live near a city or town should expect to be annexed. People who live in a city’s or town’s extraterritorial jurisdiction should expect to be annexed, according to city officials. Washington’s ETJ extends 1 1/2 miles from the city limits. The city enforces zoning and subdivision standards, the N.C. Building Code and the National Flood Insurance Program in the ETJ, where it also issues permits.
Annexation, especially certain services the city would provide, can result in some savings, contend city officials. For example, a person’s homeowners insurance likely would be less because of fire protection provided by the city. City water rates are about half those of county water rates.
People who live near the city — and what it offers — and don’t want to be part of it financially are being unrealistic, R.L. Willoughby said when he was city manager in 2002.
They are right.
He’s right. Annexation likely would put the city’s population over 10,000 people, making it eligible for some grants it’s not eligible for now because its population is less than 10,000 residents.
If annexation can be shown to be profitable or a break-even move for the city, the city should make that move.
People benefiting directly or indirectly from living near the city should help bear the burden of paying for those benefits.
Annexation, as unpopular as it would be with some people, is needed to help the city grow and thrive.