Growth figures in town races

Annexation at issue in Carrboro

Staff WriterNovember 3, 2005 

The Board of Aldermen voted to annex land north of town 10 months ago, but it's still one of the big issues on this fall's campaign trail.

One candidate, Katrina Ryan, even moved from her home in the area being annexed to an apartment in Carrboro to run and be a voice for the affected residents.

In January, the aldermen voted 5-2 to annex six subdivisions and other properties. On Jan. 31, the approximately 850 people living there will become Carrboro residents.

Aldermen Jacquie Gist and Mark Chilton, who is running for mayor, cast the dissenting votes. Both said the town had not yet put services in place for the new residents.

Gist said she also did not want to force the decision on residents.

"The way I feel is, shotgun marriages don't usually make happy homes, and I didn't see any gain in bringing in people who don't want to be part of the town," she said. "It's like bringing a hostile guest into your house."

Chilton wanted to wait two years so the town could build a fire substation in the annexation area. If the aldermen had waited, they would not now be relying on the nearby Chapel Hill and New Hope departments to serve the subdivisions.

Alderman Alex Zaffron, who also is running for mayor, said he voted for the annexation reluctantly. He said he didn't want to draw out the discussion and hand off the decision to someone else.

"It was going to be dealt with at some point by somebody," he said.

Incumbent Alderman John Herrera also voted to annex.

North Carolina's annexation law "has existed for 46 years now and ... has served the state's residents well," he said. Annexing is one of the best ways to prevent sprawl, he said.

Of the four challengers in the race for alderman, two said they would have opposed annexation, and two would not say how they would have voted.

Ryan said annexation might have made sense some day but that the aldermen should have timed it so that residents could vote in town elections and hold the decision makers accountable.

"There are residents up here who are extraordinarily unhappy, and I think that's going to manifest itself in the next few elections," she said. She also thinks having to provide services such as road improvements and street lighting in the annexation areas "is going to slow down the workings of town."

Catherine DeVine said she also would have opposed annexation because of the timing. It was unfair to approve an annexation that would take effect after the election, she said.

Randee Haven-O'Donnell said the board should have done a better job of informing the new neighbors of the annexation to make the transition easier, though she thinks the action should not have been a surprise.

She said she doesn't know how she would have voted because, even though residents didn't want it, the annexation was a long time coming. "This isn't something that all of a sudden got put on the agenda and came out of nowhere," she said.

David Marshall also could not say how he would have voted, though he said since the area was being surrounded by Carrboro, it was bound to be annexed.

"I don't believe that anyone on the board had further motives about the timing of the annexation," he said. "I think that [Town Manager] Steve Stewart was given a job to do -- to start the ball rolling. I cannot second guess them."

Staff writer Meiling Arounnarath can be reached at 932-2004 or meiling.arounnarath @newsobserver.com.

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