Swannanoa residents prepare for referendum on incorporation

Any North Carolina town that seeks to incorporate faces a long and sometimes arduous process, especially as the move must be approved by the General Assembly.

The process can take years, as Dave Alexander, chair of the Swannanoa Incorporation Task Force, has found out. But now, state Sen. Martin Nesbitt has proposed a bill that would put the town’s incorporation to a Nov. 3 referendum.

“It’s been a long process, sometimes frustratingly so, but in retrospect we can see why it’s such an arduous process. We can respect the thoroughness of it,” Alexander told Xpress. “We’re confident that we’ll meet all the legal requirements and that this will go forward well in a referendum.”

So far, the incorporation proposal has cleared every hurdle, and the Senate’s Finance Committee is taking up the bill. Alexander said he expects it to be passed in the next 60 days.

In its current form, the bill doesn’t specify the new town’s boundaries, as an engineer is still getting the exact borders worked out, Alexander noted. “That will be in the final bill, though,” he said.

The issue has been contested, sometimes hotly, in Swannanoa. Pro-incorporation advocates say the move will give the area more control over its own destiny and better services; opponents maintain that it will simply mean more taxes and bureaucracy.

No Buncombe County town has incorporated since Woodfin in 1971. Leicester is also now seeking to incorporate.

Longtime conservative activist Eric Gorny, co-founder of the anti-incorporation group Swannanoa Truth, said opponents of the change will also be talking to legislators, challenging the grounds for incorporation and working to rally the opposition for the referendum.

“We’ll have a Web site up,” said Gorny, adding, “We’re going to focus on education. We’re going to keep pushing, all the way to the finish line.”

Alexander, meanwhile, said the task force is “concentrating mostly on the legal side, not the political” right now and that, while he doesn’t agree with incorporation opponents, “We try to respect their opinions. That’s what America is about.”

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