House Panel OK's Vote on Annexations
A state House committee has approved a mechanism to allow referendums before involuntary annexations can take place, but some foes aren't satisfied with the provision.
An annexation reform bill, which came out of the House Judiciary II Committee last week, was given a big tweak in the House Finance Committee Thursday. The change put forth by the finance panel allows residents affected by an involuntary annexation to vote on the matter if 15 percent of registered voters within both the existing city limits and the area to be annexed sign a petition seeking a referendum.
But Pinewild resident Doug Aitken, leader of the Fair Annexation Coalition, doesn't like the amendment, saying that the 15 percent requirement would be a challenge to reach.
"The only thing good about that amendment is that it has the wonderful word 'vote' in it," he said by phone Thursday.
Opponents to involuntary annexation have considered a referendum a key component of any effort to reform existing state laws. Such a provision was left out of the legislation by the previous committee.
Aitken said including a public vote was a major accomplishment for the annexation reform movement, as hardly any credence was given to the idea earlier in the process. But he thinks the provision still falls short.
He said that in most cases, it would be very difficult for opponents to organize and garner enough support to cross that 15 percent threshold. He said he could have lived with the amendment if the municipality were moved from the equation.
"In essence, it doesn't practically accomplish much," he said.
Some Pinewild residents have been engaged in a lengthy fight against involuntary annexation by the village of Pinehurst, making it a hot-button topic around Moore County in recent years. The Pinehurst Village Council passed an ordinance to annex the gated golf community west of the village limits. It was supposed to be effective June 30, but that deadline has passed because federal and state lawsuits regarding the matter are still pending.
Because the new annexation reform legislation is not retroactive, it would not apply to the Pinewild case.
Aitken said he was frustrated with how the bill has shaped up, especially with the partisanship that appears to have developed in the General Assembly over the issue. That frustration boiled over Thursday when a motion to change the bill's title back to its original name failed.
The bill's new lengthy and specific title prevents it from being amended once it reaches the House floor.
Aitken and other red-shirted involuntary annexation opponents walked out of the meeting after the vote.
The Finance Committee was scheduled to meet Thursday afternoon to vote on two more amendments.
If the bill is approved, it will move onto the House floor for two readings.
Aitken said getting a watered-down version of the bill approved would not help matters. He said it would only put the issue back on the shelf for years.
"Getting a bad bill is worse than getting no bill, in our opinion," he said.
Contact John Krahnert III at 693-2473 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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