Pinewild Annexation Assailed
Pinewild residents had another opportunity Friday to make their case against the village's planned annexation of the gated country club.
Pinehurst invited Pinewild residents to a presentation on the village plans for providing municipal services to them and a question-and-answer session. Pinehurst held three public information sessions at different times to enable as many residents as possible to attend.
The question-and-answer session turned into mostly a forum for angry Pinewild residents to vent. Most of them wore red, symbolizing their resolve to stop the annexation.
The village plan showed that the financial impact for the village will be very small the first year, because in annexing the gated community, Pinehurst will incur some one-time expenses.
The village estimates that the annexation will bring in annual revenue of $1.09 million. The first year, Pinehurst will have to spend $1.02 million, most of which is in one-time expenses such as buying a new garbage truck and two new police cars.
The first year, the annexation will net Pinehurst an estimated $68,000 in revenues. But the second year and the following years, Pinehurst estimates it will net about an additional $725,000 in property taxes and other revenues.
"What services will you provide that I don't already have?" Norm Koltunovich asked Natalie Dean, assistant village manager in charge of finances.
Dean replied that police would patrol Pinewild Country Club 24 hours a day and spoke of other services outlined in the plan, such as more frequent garbage collection.
"You're replacing my services," Koltunovich said.
"In some instances we are," Village Manager Andy Wilkison said.
Ron VanHoover said the village has claimed that it wants Pinewild residents to be able to vote for council members and to take a more active civic role. If that is the case, he said, the village should start early and let the residents vote on annexation.
"Why don't you put this up for a vote?" he said. "Really, if the issue has credence, it will prevail."
He also said he didn't think that there was crime enough in Pinewild to justify adding four police officers to the Pinehurst Police Department.
Later, Bill Wendt said there have been less than 50 incidents in Pinewild in the last 10 years, according to Moore County Sheriff Lane Carter.
"This proposal is ludicrous," one member of the audience said. "Twenty-four hour patrolling! The only incidents that will occur is when two police cars run into each other."
Another benefit of annexation that the village has been touting is that the fire rating for homeowners' insurance would improve immediately to a five, which would reduce what they pay. Some Pinewild homes now have a rating of nine, though many Pinewild residents said they already had a rating of five.
"I'd rather give my tax money to the county for the schools than give it to Pinehurst for a garbage truck," said one man who opposes the involuntary annexation.
Wendt said the public information session by the village was an attempt to justify what pretty much amounted to a tax grab.
"The more you have under your control," he said, "the higher your salaries."
Al Reeder asked simply why the village wanted Pinewild.
Wilkison responded that the village wants to extend its extra-territorial zoning jurisdiction farther west on N.C. 211 so that it can have a say in how it is developed.
"For the benefit of you, you're taking advantage of us," Reeder said.
"We're doing it for the village of Pinehurst, which you will be a part of," Wilkison replied.
Pinewild resident Doug Aitken, who is chairman of a new statewide group that is lobbying the General Assembly to change the state's involuntary annexation law, said the meeting was a "sham."
"I congratulate you folks on putting on a really good show," he said. "Really what you are after is our money. I'd like to see somebody with the guts to stand up and say that."
Dave Lundberg said he echoed Aitken's sentiment.
"You're being very nice and answering our questions," he said. "But you're still going to do what you damn well please."
Aitken said Jackson Hamlet would be a much better area to annex because the residents there truly need the services the village could provide. Wilkison responded that Jackson Hamlet does not meet the legal standards to be forcibly annexed yet.
"It's very likely that when Jackson Hamlet qualifies for annexation it will very likely be annexed," he said.
Some Pinewild residents have joined Aitken's group, called the Fair Annexation Coalition (FAC). Aitken sent a letter to state legislators this week to introduce the group and it objectives.
North Carolina is one of only four states that allow involuntary annexation without any type of vote or referendum. The law is about 50 years old.
"The only recourse available to the property owners being annexed is through the courts," the letter says, "a divisive and costly recourse. While these property owners do get to speak at a public hearing, experience has shown that their voices have little, if any, significant impact."
Aitken argues in the letter that the law is not being applied as intended. It was written to give municipalities a way to extend services to communities that lack them, not grab areas that already have services.
"Municipalities bypass areas in need of municipal services and annex communities which already have all or most of these services in place," the letter says. "In doing so, the municipalities enhance their tax base at minimal cost to themselves."
The letter promises that representatives from FAC would be meeting with legislators in the following weeks.
Republican state Rep. Joe Boylan of Pinehurst has already introduced legislation to reform the state's involuntary annexation laws. One of his bills would require that a municipality must hold a referendum if 10 percent of the voters in an area targeted for involuntary annexation sign a petition requesting it.
"Rest assured, the reform of North Carolina's involuntary annexation statutes is an issue which will not go away," the letter says. "Neither will the Fair Annexation Coalition."
Matthew Moriarty can be reached at 693-2479 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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