Cary drops forcible annexation program

Town won’t consider wholesale expansion

akenney@newsobserver.comJanuary 28, 2013 

— Cary neighbors who fear annexation can rest a bit easier: The Cary Town Council has officially dismantled the forcible-annexation program that had long worried some residents on the town’s borders.

Local elected leaders in 2006 had adopted a long-term plan to examine and potentially annex about 3,200 properties near Cary town limits.

When a property is annexed, it gains the town’s services, such as utilities and law enforcement, but its owner must pay local taxes in exchange.

The town’s Comprehensive Annexation Program was meant “to provide an orderly and predictable extension of our town boundaries,” according to Ricky Barker, associate planning director. The program partly was intended to eliminate “doughnut holes” of unincorporated land surrounded by town borders.

But in its six years, the effort never got off the ground. Though the council held public hearings every other year to consider different areas for annexation, out-of-town residents were resoundingly disinterested.

In 2009, the town froze the process for the first clump of 165 homes across 10 areas. The council again delayed those first annexations in 2011, and it now has scrapped all long-term plans for forcible annexation, though it retains case-by-case authority.

Driving the change are new state rules that hamstring municipalities’ annexation powers. Under 2011 revisions to the law, landowners in an affected area can stop town annexations by voting them down. The rules also force towns to bear the costs of connecting those formerly out-of-town homes to town utilities.

Beyond the town’s reduced power, current council members don’t have much appetite to annex.

“I haven’t supported involuntary annexation,” said Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. “I would prefer that citizens just come in on their own, and you give them incentives.”

However, the newly approved changes will eliminate one financial incentive.

The town has offered 50 percent discounts on utility-connection fees for out-of-town neighborhoods that annex into Cary; but the discount, typically worth about $1,300 per home, will disappear in six months.

With involuntary annexation going away, council and staff members see less reason to encourage property owners to join voluntarily. And with the impending deadline, said Councilwoman Gale Adcock, “we want to goose them to go ahead and initiate annexation, if they’re talking about it.”

If those neighbors of Cary don’t go with annexation, there may forever be pockets of unincorporated land, resting ever-deeper in Cary’s borders.

Kenney: 919-460-2608

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