Taylortown City Limit

Taylortown appears to be taking steps to annex a piece of property owned by Mayor Ulysses Barrett.

The agenda for the Town Council meeting last Tuesday evening included an agenda item that said, “Clerk informs the board that a petition for voluntary annexations has been filed by Mayor Barrett.”

A subsequent item stated that Barrett asked for a motion to recuse himself from voting on the matter and another to adopt a resolution authorizing the town clerk to “certify the sufficiency of the petition.” That is required by state law for a town to annex property.

This is believed to be the same piece of property the town had attempted to annex in June. The town pulled the plug on it after a group of Pinehurst residents living in nearby Pinewild Country Club challenged the legality of a required legal notice for the public hearing.

The town said in a later legal ad in the The Pilot that the previously advertised hearing “has been canceled until further notice.”

The town clerk on Thursday declined to answer questions and referred questions to Barrett. Repeated calls to Barrett have not been returned.

Several Pinewild residents had argued previously that a legal ad that appeared in the May 22 edition of The Pilot about the public hearing did not meet the requirements of state law because it provided no information on the location of the property, who owns it or any other details.

Barrett had previously said following a meeting in May that it was in the “vicinity” of another tract on N.C. 211 that the town has attempted to the annex. That one led to the Pinehurst Village Council filing a lawsuit in early June asking a Superior Court judge to nullify what it contends is an “illegal” annexation.

The suit cites several violations of state law by Taylortown in annexing the 12-acre tract on N.C. 211 on May 13.

The Taylortown Council unanimously approved the annexation without comment despite warnings from village officials and a group of residents of neighboring Pinewild Country Club that it violated state law.

The suit also names Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, which owns the property, and the Plumbing Knight Inc., which had an option to purchase the land at the time. The complaint states that they are “necessary parties to this action only because each has or may have property interests” in the tract and that “it is only the defendant Taylortown which engaged in the unlawful actions.”

The property at issue is the same site Rodney Swarms, who owns the Plumbing Knight, asked the county to rezone for a commercial development last year. The rezoning drew opposition from Pinewild residents. A public hearing on the rezoning was delayed twice and never rescheduled.

Pinehurst Village Attorney Mike Newman says in the lawsuit that non-contiguous annexations, which are also commonly known as “satellite” annexations, are “narrowly constrained” by state law and are “strictly governed” by the requirements in the statutes.

The village says in its complaint that Taylortown never informed the applicant that the annexation was illegal, and that it has “actual and/or constructive knowledge” of that fact. It says the “black-letter law of North Carolina for decades” has been that the amount of land taken in through satellite annexations cannot exceed 10 percent of its total land area.

The suit also says the town’s primary corporate limits consist of 757 acres. Two previous satellite annexations — the largest being the 81-acre Pinesage subdivision — total slightly more than 89 acres. This tract would add another 12 acres, exceeding the 10 percent threshold.

The village contends that state law also prohibits one municipality from annexing land that is closer to another one when there is no annexation agreement in place between the two. No such agreement exists between the two.

Contact David Sinclair at (910) 693-2462 or dsinclair@thepilot.com.

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