City correct to annex, but must welcome outside opinions

Published 3:07 am Wednesday, February 11, 2009

By Staff
Given the struggle virtually all small cities are having these days and possibly well into the future, the city of Washington is correct to consider annexing adjacent areas.
As reported in Tuesday’s Daily News, the council unanimously adopted a resolution during its Monday night meeting that identifies four areas it may want to annex.
According to City Planner John Rodman, the city stands to add $16 million to its tax base if it annexes the areas.
Councilman Archie Jennings and Mayor Pro Tem Doug Mercer also contend that by increasing the city’s population to more than 10,000 — which the annexation would accomplish — the city becomes eligible for more grants and revenue opportunities not available to communities with less than 10,000 residents.
During its annual planning session last year, the council indicated that annexation is a feasible way to grow the city’s and its tax base.
But before the city commits to the annexation process, it must tread carefully to avoid buyer’s regret.
The city must provide timely services to annexed areas, but the inherent cost to provide those services — which could include fire and police protection and water and sewer offerings — may be more than the city can afford.
So it’s obvious city officials must carefully weigh annexation benefits against potential detriments.
The N.C. General Assembly is currently batting around state annexation laws that need critical review.
Cities, for instance, that adopt a resolution of consideration to annex, currently do have to notify residents and property owners that their areas may be annexed.
Even if the laws don’t change, Washington must make a good-faith effort to notify residents and property owners outside current city limits that their areas may be annexed.
Not only that, but city officials should hold public forums to allow affected residents to offer their opinions on annexation.
We expect that in most cases, the process would proceed relatively smoothly, but government transparency must be the rule, not the exception.