You may need annexation as much as it needs you

North Carolina's progressive annexation laws are constantly under attack and yet they are what have allowed our cities to stay at a healthy level not found in our neighboring states. Anyone driving on White Horse Road must think Greenville, S.C., one unattractive city, and yet, due to South Carolina's archaic laws, the city has no control over its outlying areas, with obvious consequences.

Atlanta is landlocked by other incorporated cities that have left it with only one-tenth of the metropolitan area's 5.5 million residents and some of the worst traffic in the country, largely due to a lack of consensus among competing local governments.

No, we do not need a city of Swannanoa. To get an idea of what our cities would look like without the ability to annex, check out the much-maligned Fayetteville. Cumberland County managed an exemption from the statute, resulting in years of unsightly, uncontrolled development. The exemption was eventually overturned, but the damage is grandfathered. For economic viability, it seems only fair that adjacent urbanized areas be part of the solution. Biltmore Lake, you do not live in some void or Madison County.

Your community would not exist without its proximity to the city you are fighting so hard not to be a part of.

— Steve Woolum
Asheville

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59 thoughts on “You may need annexation as much as it needs you

  1. Betty

    Since when did the word “progressive” take on the connotation of inclusion by force? That’s not really a very inclusive way to think about your neighbors.

    Voluntary annexation is a good thing.

    Forced annexation is a bad idea, always.

    Voluntary annexation may be progressive.

    Forced annexation is at all times repressive.

  2. The Duke Of Marshall

    Want to look at examples? Fine. Let’s take a look at China, past communist Russia, Iran, North Korea, etc and ask those folks how they like someone else coming in without their permission and/or consent and taking them over.

    Each community has it’s own uniqueness; it’s own flavor, if you will. Once it is taken over it is subject to the rules, regulations, and laws of the invader that make the invader what it is in it’s own respects. If people want that then they have free reign to move within the limits of the invader and subject themselves. And of course, donations are always accepted.

    Basically what it boils down to is freedom. I have never heard of anyone that opposes annexation. But freedom loving individuals oppose FORCED annexation. A process that is un-American and only benefits a select few. Namely those in office.

    FORCED annexation bears a striking resemblance to that “C” word that has red for it’s color.

  3. Arden Resident

    I have a 70 year old house outside (barely) of Asheville. It costs a lot for upkeep. I make decisions about how I spend my money on that upkeep and improvements. I don’t ask my neighbour to pay for my expenses, for my decisions. I have nothing to offer him – he doesn’t need anything more anyway – he is doing ok (though just barely, as we are).

    Neither of us however would do well at all if the city annexes our area (as they have tried to do in the past and if we don’t fix this archaic unconstitutional law, I have no doubt they will try again). Annexation would ruin our area – for all Asheville/Buncombe County residents, not improve it!

    With so many out of work, barely hanging on now with keeping their homes, the area would go downhill rapidly. The city would do nothing but try to pull money out of us to everyone’s detriment. Homes would be abandoned eventually, rundown even further initially. Lives would be destroyed. And that would help who?

    I live in a house that was inhabited by my aunt for 40 years but it was built by vacationers originally – who came here to be with a few friends in the mountains, in a place which was then NOT next door to a large city. The city moved to our area, not the other way around. We had no control over that encroachment.

    People outside of Asheville have not had (and even if annexed would not, for some time, have) any say at all in how Asheville is run. They get no vote (for at least a year after actually beginning to pay the outrageous tax increases for lower grade services than we currently have). And you think that is fair? We don’t use your services. We contribute to Asheville more than you know right now. But, you would run us into the ground because Asheville citizens cannot control their own council’s spending? How would that improve your life, much less ours? Doesn’t that seem more than a little bit selfish and thoughtless?

    The fact that Asheville has mismanaged (and continues to mismanage) their funds – your taxes – doesn’t concern you? You think their only proper solution is to take in other areas, without making basic changes to ensure they remain viable in future? Is this a ‘misery loves comfort’ issue with you? How about you work on fixing the fiscal problems up there and on improving Asheville first so we WANT to join you? Wouldn’t that be a much better approach – a more welcoming way to get what you seem to want so much .. our money for nothing in return.

    We really are in trouble in this country if, after considering what I and I am sure others who will comment here, have to say, you can still expect others to pick up the slack that Ashevillians have foist upon themselves by ‘using’ others who are doing you no harm to do so.

    As for Biltmore Lake .. you should be thrilled to have them on your boundaries. No one coming from outside of Asheville would actually think they are anything but an asset to the Asheville ‘area’. You get the benefit of that and I doubt they will deteriorate overnight and cause the Greenville outskirts problem you talked about either. They paid for their own infrastructure. They, like all of us, pay for their own services. They, like all of us, deserve to be heard about whether WE want to join with Asheville, and not just taken because Asheville wants to take us without our consent.

  4. frankwhitehorse

    Mr. Woolum’s comments are specious on so many levels!! First, to call NC annexation laws “progressive” is laughable. NC is one of only a few states that still allow forced annexation and one of the two easiest states in which to pull this land grab off! The rest of the US has PROGRESSIVELY moved on to a more equitable and honest way of growing their cities’ size and finances! Secondly,to blame Atlanta’s traffic, or other areas “unsightly” development on cities’ lack of ability to annex is unbelievable. Urban sprawl and city decay all over this country refutes this position! And “economic viability”? For whom? The way it stands now, NC cities can grab and tax whole communities without providing ANY new services or benefits for years- in some cases NEVER. The slam on Madison County does not even merit a response! Sounds to me like Mr. Woolum is in bed with the League of Municipalities.

  5. frankwhitehorse

    Incorporation is not a fruitful and smart way to fight threats of annexation. It merely is a “horse of a different color”! Incorporating causes another layer of control, tax, and legislation on our landowners. Another city to deal with and fund. Changing archaic NC annexation laws is a start. Holding the County government (already in place and taxing us) accountable for upholding existing County laws is another line of defense. I wonder if Woolum attends County meetings. There are many regulations already on the books, which address his complaints, that are not being adequately upheld. And there is a share of per-capita State revenue given to the County to do this. Get involved with your existing layers of government instead of hollering from your armchair!!

  6. indy499

    There’s a piece of the puzzle that is missing in this commentary. The huge disparity between what the city keeps in sales tax and the county lays claim to is appalling. The city produces nearly 80% of the sales tax revenue and receives only about 12%.

    A portion of the gap is due to the state and state law, but a portion is directly determined by the county.

    If the division of tax revenue were more fair, it would be far more credible to be opposed to “forced annexation”. How about the law becomes no forced annexation and every entity pays for their own taxes? If you produce it, you keep it. No more subsidy from the city to the county.

  7. WOW… i am continually amazed at the way in which modern Americans think… or NOT, as the case continues to present itself. however, i presume it’s just an example of the bad fruits of our dismal public education system.

    first of all, NC is one of few states (like 4 or so?) in “Neo-Amerika” which allows FORCED annexation — and folks, let’s at least call it what it is and stop pussy footing around the issue. it’s FORCED when a municipality prohibits the people from having a vote… yet advocates of such FORCE continue to call it “DEMOCRACY”???

    knowing that NC is among few states which allow FORCD annexation, Steve Woolum should consider that there are thousands of rural areas across this country which have managed to govern themselves quite well WITHOUT its nearby cities forcing the issue of annexation.

    in fact, when a city proves itself to be governed by a council having intelligence and wisdom, bearing the fruits of a balanced budget, reasonable tax rates and building codes, free from overbearing and ridiculous UDO’s, surrounding areas are often happy to be annexed and will vote accordingly.

    however, in the case of Asheville, NOT SO MUCH! 8-) why the hell would anyone want to be annexed into Asheville, when the City Council is more concerned about frivolous “issues” than it is about important ones?

    many long time Asheville residents have been very patient with the foolish legislation passed over the past 20 years or so, but our patience is wearing thin — i know mine is, after dealing with the BS i’ve had to endure (and others in my situation) over the past few months.

    the Asheville and NC State governments are WAY OUT OF ORDER!!!

    and as for the closing statement in this article: “Your community would not exist without its proximity to the city you are fighting so hard not to be a part of.”

    you’ve got that ENTIRELY backwards! NO, Asheville wouldn’t exist without it’s interesting diverse and eclectic community — the city is a byproduct of the community and PEOPLE make up a city, not the other way around!

    my, one would think a self-proclaimed “progressive” would understand this simple and basic fundamental truth… but geeze, the more i hear from these local so called “progressives”, i wonder if ANY of them understand anything involving truth at all!

    for example, i’m still waiting for ANYONE to comment on how one can be an advocate for “democracy” while simultaneously also an advocate for FORCED annexation, prohibiting people from voting.

    contradiction? hypocrisy? seems that’s what “progressives” do best!

    isn’t it time to finally “MOVE ON” passed all such foolishness???

  8. Robert Malt

    The use of force is not “progressive”…it is regressive.

  9. frankwhitehorse

    Well said, infinity BBC, and I will elaborate on one of your most intelligent points. You say that cities thrive BECAUSE OF surrounding countryside, not the other way around. You are so right. If you look at the numbers, countryside, farm and forest land require few services. The state maintains our roads, and rural areas require little from fire and police crews. Therefore, the tax revenues gleaned from these properties are bonus dollars. They support county and city coffers far better than urban taxes do. Check out why Henderson County is fighting not to lose any more of these valuable lands to development. See what Mills River would do if allowed “do-overs” in their incorporation. There is demonstrable evidence that annexation and incorporation both encourage development. We have lost valuable forest and farmland to this development. Therefore we have lost a profitable and inexpensive tax commodity to the engulfing cities- and so the problem perpetuates. Indeed, these lands existed before cities, and they support the developed structure now. And this is outside the more simple argument of preservation of our scenic and productive countryside. All of this is a matter of public record, if a person is willing to get up and do some research. Sitting around complaining and opining in ignorance won’t get the job done.

  10. gaww

    I think maybe the “progressive” label was made to support the continued empire building and pet project agenda being pursued by The mayor and several council members. These pet projects (greenhouse gas, expanded public transit, etc.) are the main cause of the City’s problems on the spending side, and they will get totally out of hand based on the City’s long range plans.

    It therefore is to be considered “progressive” if outlying areas are formidably annexed solely to bleed them for additional revenues by doubling their property taxes. After all, the Berkeley (CA) philosophy states that the end justifies the means, and as Asheville appears to want to become the Berkeley of the east (you really don’t want to go there!!), it rationalizes its actions as being progressive.

    Palo Alto is a progressive city in CA, and does not need to finance its programs by swallowing its neighbors (not possible in any case). It does have a per-capita income and property assessments many times that of Asheville, so they can afford their progressiveness – Asheville has to wake up to the fact that they don’t and can’t.

    What Asheville really needs to do is become is a well run city with realistic goals (yes – I DO believe in the tooth fairy). To do that, citizens of the City that have real roots there need to wake up and consider these facts in the next Municipal elections.

    If not, it is only a matter of time before the City’s financial roof caves in – even with “progressive annexations.

  11. Asheville Dweller

    Alot of folks like to use the fact they are “Progressive” to get away with what ever they want. Like Forced Annexation, sorry it doesnt work that way.

    Alot of folks that use “progressive” as their title or rallying cry are pretty close minded in their ideals but its ok, they call themselves progressive.

    I dont blame those people that are fighting forced annexation for being against it. They have seen what happens to other areas that have been annexed. Seen their hard earned tax dollars wasted on fad after fad, and you can only beat a dead horse so long sooner or later you will relize its dead, and nothing is goig to change.

    How much tax payer money wasted on the Civic Center, how many reports, panels, studies do we need that will tell us that is falling apart and beyond repair?

  12. frankwhitehorse

    Oh yes, Asheville Dweller, and how ’bout them signs? Lots of money spent to determine the “need” for those signs, huge money paid to a company that is not local, thus does not support the local economy, and more money doled out to fix the inadequacies of the original signs. GREAT use of taxpayer dollars in these hard times, don’t you think? In the Swannanoa incorporation attempt the so-called services to be “provided” were fire, police, roads and streetlights. The state maintains our roads, the county provides fire and police. That leaves streetlights for an area that is more than 60% unoccupied! Streetlights! What?…are the bears afraid of the dark?!! Swannanoans thank their lucky stars every day that they fended off this additional layer of government. County residents would do well to fend off annexation attempts for the same reasons. Get involved in the state-level fight to change the unjust forced annexation laws, and put your money on the table to fight off incorporation or annexation in your backyards. It will be MUCH cheaper for you in the long run!!

  13. gaww

    I think maybe the “progressive” label was made to support the continued empire building and pet project agenda being pursued by The mayor and several council members. These pet projects (greenhouse gas, expanded public transit, etc.) are the main cause of the City’s problems on the spending side, and they will get totally out of hand based on the City’s long range plans.

    It therefore is to be considered “progressive” if outlying areas are formidably annexed solely to bleed them for additional revenues by doubling their property taxes. After all, the Berkeley (CA) philosophy states that the end justifies the means, and as Asheville appears to want to become the Berkeley of the east (you really don’t want to go there!!), it rationalizes its actions as being progressive.

    Palo Alto is a progressive city in CA, and does not need to finance its programs by swallowing its neighbors (not possible in any case). It does have a per-capita income and property assessments many times that of Asheville, so they can afford their progressiveness – Asheville has to wake up to the fact that they don’t and can’t.

    What Asheville really needs to do is become is a well run city with realistic goals (yes – I DO believe in the tooth fairy). To do that, citizens of the City that have real roots there need to wake up and consider these facts in the next Municipal elections.

    If not, it is only a matter of time before the City’s financial roof caves in – even with “progressive annexations.

  14. bill smith

    It’s difficult to be against annexation when so many comments against it are so, well… unconvincing and hubris-filled rants against all kinds of unseen bogeymen.

    And I say that as someone not supportive of annexation.

  15. frankwhitehorse

    If you want to see things well done without pandering to the influx of newcomers, or without permitting urban sprawl, take a look at Oregon in general- Portland Ore., in specific. Long ago Oregon closed the borders to interlopers intent on reaping profit from turning Oregon into versions of the crowded, polluted, ugly-built places from whence they fled. For the most part this has turned out to be a wise and successful endeavor. Portland, long ago, decided to keep its charm, beauty and integrity by drawing up finite borders beyond which it couldn’t sprawl. It then provided mass transit, bike paths, gardens and parks and many areas of entertainment for its citizens who agreed to stay, in-fill, support and enjoy. Portland is a delight today. Take note idiot annexers and incorporators.

  16. FactFinder

    Fact 1: Prior to the passage of the 1959 N.C. Annexation law, the people in N.C. regularly voted on annexation as was required by law. This
    law disenfranchised them. Fact 2: The founders of this country made sure that the U.S. Constitution guaranteed citizens the right to have a “say” (vote)on issues that affect them such as property rights. Thus, the N.C. Annexation law is unconstitutional because it does not allow American citizens the right to vote on annexation. Fact 3: regarding sales tax distribution, State law requires that N.C. counties distribute sales taxes to the cities within their borders. For the past 25 years, Buncombe County has distributed to cities their share of sales tax based on the amount of property taxes (ad valorem) they charge their residents. Official statistical charts show that most cities in Buncombe County show an INCREASE in revenue from sales tax except for Asheville which received less in 2010 because they reportedly lowered their property taxes. Buncombe County will not change their sales tax distribution method from one based on city property taxes (ad valorem)to one based on population (per capita) because it would result in drastic revenue cuts for vital county services like fire, sheriff, and schools, and because county property taxes would increase by 6%! Fact 4: the residents within the city of Asheville support forced annexation only because they know that forced annexation is put on hold by a soon-to-be moratorium on annexation until July 2012 and by a bill introduced by Rep. Tim Moffitt that would halt all annexation within Buncombe County for five years, that they will undoubtedly see their property taxes rise in order to pay the city’s bills. That’s what it all boils down to.

  17. FactFinder

    Perhaps the city of Asheville needs to tighten its belt like other cities are doing by becoming more fiscally responsible before resorting to forced annexation. Suggestions on how to do this include:(1)reducing the salaries and benefits of city employees; (2) reviewing and eliminating city services that are duplicative and unnecessary;(3) stop funding unnecessary cosmetic projects in the city like “more parks” and adhere to fundamental changes that will bring immediate benefit to city residents.

  18. I would have to surmise from this letter that no one from Asheville ever ventures outside its corporate limits to go hiking, fishing, biking, climbing, skiing, boating or sight-seeing. Or to just get the hell away for a weekend.

    It seems to me that it is the city-dwellers who are the moochers reaping the benefits of open space, solitude, recreational activities and unspoiled wilderness.
    …………………………..

  19. Troubled

    Funny thing that the “all-knowing touter of forced annexation” mentions Greenville, SC.
    The only correct thing about his statement is that the city does not use
    forced annexation.
    Because of that it had look inward to solve its
    problems. As a result, the city now has a vibrant downtown which serves as the
    economic engine for the entire County.
    It has the drawing power of a city ten times its size.
    Several North Carolina cities have sent
    contingents to Greenville to see how they have managed to accomplish this “miracle.”
    (Source: Greensboro News-Record, “High Point Looks for Greenville Magic,”
    by Doug Clark, November 12, 2008.)

  20. bill smith

    Edit: Although the percentage of folks going outside town to walk on a trail is probably far smaller than those who come to town to use parking, water, services, etc.

    So never mind.

  21. As I have repeatedly stated, I’m no fan of forced annexation.

    However, I do think it’s worthwhile to correct a lot of misinformation that gets spread around whenever the subject is considered, particularly in relation to the city I know best.

    First: Involuntary annexation under current NC law doesn’t spread a city into surrounding countryside. It permits a city to annex areas that meet certain definitions of urbanization. That is, the area has already become city-like due to density or commercial development.

    Second: Anyone who claims that Asheville is squandering money on frills simply hasn’t ever examined the city budget. Unless you consider police and fire protection, street and sidewalk maintenance, trash collection and building safety to be “frills.”

    Third: Our “greening” is saving the city taxpayers significant money- the upcoming retrofit of street lights alone will save upward of $350,000 per year even after amortizing the new lights. The new hybrid buses are twice as efficient as the old ones. Retrofits on city buildings with new lights and lighting systems pay for themselves in a few years and then reduce operating costs permanently. Our overall carbon reduction goals will save huge amounts of money.

    Fourth: The failed signs were not a city project (and the Tourism Develpment Authority that bought them has taken the responsible company to court).

    Fifth: Asheville is providing the same level of service today (fire, police,trash, etc.) as in 2000 at a lower cost per capita.

    Sixth: Our police and fire department have documented that over half of the emergency calls in the City involve non-residents (some of whom are tourists, of course).

    Seventh: As one commenter noted, Asheville generates most of the sales tax in the county but only gets back 18 percent of the tax collected. Furthermore, when you compare North Carolina to other states, it might be worth noting that in many of those states, cities are permitted to impose an income tax on people working in the city. That makes up for the increased services and infrastructure required by commuters.

    Finally (for now, at least) – The Sullivan Acts have to be considered in any discussion of Asheville’s finances and growth. Forcing Asheville to provide water at the same rate outside city limits is every bit as unfair as forced annexation. Why should Asheville residents pay more for water so Tiger Woods and other major developers can get cheap water?

  22. hauntedheadnc

    [i]If you want to see things well done without pandering to the influx of newcomers, or without permitting urban sprawl, take a look at Oregon in general- Portland Ore., in specific. Long ago Oregon closed the borders to interlopers intent on reaping profit from turning Oregon into versions of the crowded, polluted, ugly-built places from whence they fled. For the most part this has turned out to be a wise and successful endeavor. Portland, long ago, decided to keep its charm, beauty and integrity by drawing up finite borders beyond which it couldn’t sprawl. It then provided mass transit, bike paths, gardens and parks and many areas of entertainment for its citizens who agreed to stay, in-fill, support and enjoy. Portland is a delight today. Take note idiot annexers and incorporators.[/i]

    You do realize that you just topped yourself there, don’t you? You’re all in a lather about big, bad Asheville telling coming in, rape-of-the-Sabine style, to add a layer of city regulation to county dwellers, and your solution is to… regulate land use in the county so that nobody can develop their land?

    Growth boundaries have been periodically brought up as a solution to area growh ever since I can remember, and I’ve been involved in advocating for smarter, better growth in this region since the late 90’s. Growth boundaries never get beyond a cursory discussion because outside of Asheville, Buncombe County is packed to choking with people who believe that not only is it their God-given right to cover their land with a dense, protective layer of condominiums, but it is their [i]duty[/i] to do so, and to do otherwise would make them bad people. After all, the Bible tells us that not only are we to subdue the earth, we are to twist its tit until it shrieks uncle.

  23. hauntedheadnc

    And another thought to “Troubled.”

    You mention Greenville as a paragon of urban development, and how it has raised its downtown into the showplace of the region.

    I’ll grant that downtown is nice, but once you leave the downtown area and its immediate necklace of historic neighborhoods, Greenville degenerates into a slog of slums and sprawl ugly enough to make your eyes bleed. That, and despite that spiffy downtown, it’s losing population to its suburbs. That, and it would seem to me from my experience down there, that while Greenville city does an adequate job of attempting to beautify itself, Greenville County goes out of its way to be hideous. You can actually see the line of demarcation in some of the outer shopping centers that are located part in the city and part in the county. The side of the parking lot located inside the city will have at least a little landscaping, while the part in the county will have as its landscaping a charming selection of dead weeds poking up through cracks in the asphalt.

    No… all in all, I don’t think Greenville is all that great a model to follow when it comes to growth. Now, as to their prowess in attracting jobs that actually pay you enough to live on, while maintaining an affordable cost of living… That’s where Asheville could take notes. I’d rather we achieve their accomplishments without having to become as godawfully ugly as they are.

  24. Asheville Dweller

    Asheville wastes alot of money on frills and fads (See beer city for a perfect example of embracing a fad), more then it should in a recession.

    Thousands of dollars on Murals on a bus when the Asheville Transit has issues of its own.

    “Greening” the civic center roof when we know that dump is a lost cause but you gotta keep pumping good money into it.

    The lack of sidewalks in several areas that need sidewalks, all for the sake of adding another junk sculpture downtown. I know in my neighborhood on a main artery 5 minutes for down town we have no Sidewalks.

    Doing nothing to keep stable jobs in Asheville,and Bumcombe county, jobs that have benefits and pay well. Need Jobs what part about this you dont understand. People have families they need to care fore, that can’t make ends meet in the tourism based fields, or at yet another micro-brew, we need JOBS, and to keep the ones that are already here.

  25. frankwhitehorse

    Good grief, yes, I want to comment. First read Tim Pecks last comment and that of Troubled. Truth! Bill Smith, show me your factual data about more local people coming into the city than going out into the country-side. And the visitors TO Asheville, whether from surrounding areas or tourists, spend money with every visit. They pay for parking, meals, museums, gifts, clothing, hotels, concerts-everything. This fills city coffers as well as supports businesses. A walk in the country, or a drive on the parkway costs nothing. If your walk is on my property (which it often is) then you are probably costing me money picking up your trash, mending my fences and gates and paying for the liability insurance such encroachments require!! But that is another topic. Cecil- HOGWASH! Especially since the police and rescue efforts are mostly expended on tourists, not local residents from surrounding (read annexable) areas. Shame on you. Tell the whole truth. Water comes to Asheville FROM the county via systems built and paid for by COUNTY residents. Asheville produces no water. Until Asheville usurped the system, it was operated and funded jointly. The Sullivan Acts were put into place so that one entity could not grab control of the system and impose unfair rates on those ousted. Good thing considering what happened, huh? Last, Factfinder, taxes are collected ad valorem, yes. They are distributed to each city, by the state, according to that cities’ population, sales, size and other. As a city, in order to obtain these funds you need to belong to the League of Municipalities- the price tag is huge regulation, numerous statutes, and numerous other burdensome urban rules. A lot of recent opposition to changing annexation laws has been funded by the League of Municipalities for obvious special interest reasons. When the state collects taxes from areas not in a city, the money goes to the county to be distributed for the use of county residents- man, woman, and child. My taxes do not support Asheville, for example. They support state and county services and business. All of us get a share paid to the county in our behalf. That goes to a city if I am annexed, along with the additional tax they impose. I get no more county benefits and certainly nothing new from the city! Hmmm! Win-win city, Lose-lose me. Think I’ll keep supporting my county government.

  26. FactFinder

    Here are the facts regarding Sullivan Act I, Sullivan Act II and Sullivan Act III. Years ago,
    the city of Asheville wanted to charge differential water rates to areas outside its borders in Buncombe County as an enticement for voluntary annexation. The County objected because it had built and paid for its own water infrastructure. The N.C. Legislature agreed and passed Sullivan Act I. A few years ago, the city of Asheville cancelled its water agreement with Buncombe County and again expressed its desire to charge differential water rates to customers residing outside its borders. Buncombe County state representatives introduced bills to stop this from happening based on the history regarding water between Asheville and Buncombe County. N.C. Legislators near unanimously approved Sullivan Act II and Sullivan Act III which forbid Asheville from charging differential water rates like other N.C. cities do and they also stipulate that Asheville can use water revenue only to maintain the water system. Since then, on the request of Asheville, the N.C. Legislature modified that stipulation so that the City can use a portion of water revenue to pay down bills not related to water. There is little to reconsider regarding the Sullivan Acts because they are based on legality and the fact that Buncombe County built and paid for its own water infrastructure, unlike other N.C. counties.

  27. gaww

    I think maybe the “progressive” label was made to support the continued empire building and pet project agenda being pursued by The mayor and several council members. These pet projects (greenhouse gas, expanded public transit, etc.) are the main cause of the City’s problems on the spending side, and they will get totally out of hand based on the City’s long range plans.

    It therefore is to be considered “progressive” if outlying areas are formidably annexed solely to bleed them for additional revenues by doubling their property taxes. After all, the Berkeley (CA) philosophy states that the end justifies the means, and as Asheville appears to want to become the Berkeley of the east (you really don’t want to go there!!), it rationalizes its actions as being progressive.

    Palo Alto is a progressive city in CA, and does not need to finance its programs by swallowing its neighbors (not possible in any case). It does have a per-capita income and property assessments many times that of Asheville, so they can afford their progressiveness – Asheville has to wake up to the fact that they don’t and can’t.

    What Asheville really needs to do is become is a well run city with realistic goals (yes – I DO believe in the tooth fairy). To do that, citizens of the City that have real roots there need to wake up and consider these facts in the next Municipal elections.

    If not, it is only a matter of time before the City’s financial roof caves in – even with “progressive annexations.

  28. frankwhitehorse

    Read a little more carefully before you jump in, haunted head. I said Portland drew FINITE borders- which means borders beyond which THEY COULD NOT EXPAND. This was a self-imposed refusal to sprawl.(In case you need simpler elaboration, Portland made in internal decision not to sprawl, ANNEX, grab, coerce or otherwise EXPAND ITS BOUNDARIES).Their message was to LEAVE THE SURROUNDING COUNTRYSIDE ALONE and turn to improving, funding and infilling what they had. And that is what they have done. got it?
    Factfinder, you are right on the money with the explanation of what happened with the water system. Thanks. Asheville (Cecil in this instance) loves to cry foul and pretend that “their” water is being hi-jacked and “given” to those in the county” at the expense of poor Asheville taxpayers. At this point, Cecil and other City Council members lack any credibility. They always give just enough so-called “fact” to support what they are positing. Again, hogwash.

  29. hauntedheadnc

    Frankwhitehorse, what does a growth boundary have to do with sprawl? Sprawl is a pattern of building and growth, and has nothing to do with municpal boundaries.

  30. JWTJr

    HauntedHead – growth boundaries/sprawl are directly related to municipal boundaries when that municipality is planning regulate how their new land is developed.

  31. hauntedheadnc

    [i]HauntedHead – growth boundaries/sprawl are directly related to municipal boundaries when that municipality is planning regulate how their new land is developed. [/i]

    A municipal boundary still has very little to do over the pattern of building. You’ll note that Asheville’s commercial sprawlways look just as bad, and are every bit as traffic-clogged, outside the city limits as they do inside. About the only difference you’ll find is that cities tend to be more stringent with their land-use rules than counties are. Hence the shopping centers in Greenville, half of which look somewhat nice and half of which look hideous.

    I think frankwhitehorse is confusing the terms. “Sprawl” is the pattern of building, not the expansion of municipal boundaries.

  32. A very reasonable compromise would have been for existing customers on existing water lines to be grandfathered when Asheville consolidated the water system. The result of the Sullivan Acts, however, is that the City system is providing water to huge numbers of new customers in developments that advertise “City water rates without City taxes!” Tiger Woods wasn’t even born when the City took over the pipes.

    FactFinder, you didn’t cover all the facts.

    It is the development interests in the County who demand that the Sullivan Acts continue (and of course, those who love to have their cake and eat it).

    And Whitehorse, no, the emergency calls are NOT mostly for tourists. Tourists make up a relatively small pool of our population day to day. 40,000 people commute into Asheville each day to work.

  33. frankwhitehorse

    The definition of sprawl is to spread out awkwardly and carelessly. The sprawl we are concerned with is URBAN sprawl. Municipal boundaries have everything to do with this pattern. Come out into my part of the county and see how much urban impact there is- Asheville cannot touch us out here, therefore there is little to gain from businesses, and their companion forces of houses and accoutrements, to “pave” our countryside. This sort of “sprawl” follows cities and their encroaching lines, ever-expanding. Hauntedhead needs to treat itself to a trip to Portland and the areas surrounding Portland. No sprawl. Greenville? Greenville is the largest and richest city in SC. It has many beautiful areas- not just its vibrant downtown(which, by the way LOST its population due to decay and has been steadily regaining it since revitalization). I realize all this was before the 90’s when you started “observing”.It also has its industrial and service areas, railroad, mill towns, bus stations and other less scenic, but necessary areas. So does Portland, Kansas City, and Tupelo, Miss.-so does Asheville. The, in haunteds opinion, blight in Greenville is mostly the areas where all the industrial work, service businesses and other things that make up the working guts of a town reside. Sorry you would like that all prettied up, but all the fancy, pretty,”acceptable” parts of any town require these service areas and the suppliers, working class neighborhoods and the businesses that surround them. All the regulation in the world won’t change that. Oh, and Cecil I am sure you do think that the way the City of Asheville wants the water system to be would be so much more equitable. Fortunately, former statesmen and lawyers saw it differently. To say the county simply seeks to build and finance its own interests is the pot calling the kettle black.
    Furthermore, Asheville is not REQUIRED to supply water to ANYONE outside of its limits. Asheville CHOSE to supply the Tiger Woods development with water, making that agreement in private. You know as well as I do that the water department makes an “assessment” as to whether the current supply is enough, the current lines are large enough to tap, yet again, and if it is cost effective. Many people get turned down. One wonders what Asheville perceived as the profitable return on this deal. And 40K workers? How dare they sneak into your little town to be the backbone of the workforce!! The largest two employers are the city and the hospital. The hopital pays HUGE taxes to the city for the priviledge of being in an essential business that serves the city and its people. Hospital workers pay gas tax, food and clothing tax; they party, purchase and plie their trades in Asheville daily. NO they are not OUTSIDERS who should be considered leaches on the good graces of the city and denied emergency services. They fund those services. And City employees?- don’t go there. That leaves the army of tourists crowding our fair city year-round. Asheville begs for this influx of money from these people- constantly seeks it. Stop crying because you have to service them!

  34. A very reasonable compromise would have been for existing customers on existing water lines to be grandfathered when Asheville consolidated the water system. The result of the Sullivan Acts, however, is that the City system is providing water to huge numbers of new customers in developments that advertise “City water rates without City taxes!” Tiger Woods wasn’t even born when the City took over the pipes.

    FactFinder, you didn’t cover all the facts.

    It is the development interests in the County who demand that the Sullivan Acts continue (and of course, those who love to have their cake and eat it).

    And Whitehorse, no, the emergency calls are NOT mostly for tourists. Tourists make up a relatively small pool of our population day to day. 40,000 people commute into Asheville each day to work.

  35. FactFinder

    I admit I may not have all the facts on the water dispute between the city of Asheville and Buncombe County but the facts I stated were accurate. My research is based on actual copies of Sullivan Acts II and III, and many articles from the Citizen-Times, and some even from Mountain Xpress. It would seem that since both the House of Representatives and Senate comprising the N.C. Legislature voted almost unanimously for Sullivan Acts II and III, there must be credible reasons behind their votes. Surely, there must be a way for Asheville to increase its revenue without imposing on others. Most state and local governments at this time are examining how they can reduce their overhead to become more cost efficient. Asheville should not be an exception to this.

  36. invisiblefriend

    @Steve Woolum
    You say “To get an idea of what our cities would look like without the ability to annex, check out the much-maligned Fayetteville. Cumberland County managed an exemption from the statute, resulting in years of unsightly, uncontrolled development.”

    If we are only 4 states that have the forced annexation law, are you saying that approximately 92% (% of all 50 states which do not allow forced annexation)of all towns in this entire country are unsightly and mal-aligned?

    @cecilbrothwell
    When you say “As I have repeatedly stated, I’m no fan of forced annexation”, do you mean that you would support it in certain situations? If so, do you think that it is a legitimate law that should not have to require a referendum vote from those that live in the area that will be affected?

  37. gaww

    I think maybe the “progressive” label was made to support the continued empire building and pet project agenda being pursued by The mayor and several council members. These pet projects (greenhouse gas, expanded public transit, etc.) are the main cause of the City’s problems on the spending side, and they will get totally out of hand based on the City’s long range plans.

    It therefore is to be considered “progressive” if outlying areas are formidably annexed solely to bleed them for additional revenues by doubling their property taxes. After all, the Berkeley (CA) philosophy states that the end justifies the means, and as Asheville appears to want to become the Berkeley of the east (you really don’t want to go there!!), it rationalizes its actions as being progressive.

    Palo Alto is a progressive city in CA, and does not need to finance its programs by swallowing its neighbors (not possible in any case). It does have a per-capita income and property assessments many times that of Asheville, so they can afford their progressiveness – Asheville has to wake up to the fact that they don’t and can’t.

    What Asheville really needs to do is become is a well run city with realistic goals (yes – I DO believe in the tooth fairy). To do that, citizens of the City that have real roots there need to wake up and consider these facts in the next Municipal elections.

    If not, it is only a matter of time before the City’s financial roof caves in – even with “progressive annexations.

  38. hauntedheadnc

    Frank, as enjoyable as it is to watch you froth at the mouth (and it seems that your trigger is Asheville’s audacity to exist as a municipal entity), you still aren’t getting it: Municipal boundaries have next to nothing to do with the building pattern known as sprawl. You can have subdivisions and strip malls sprawling up hill and down dale either with or without a city to answer to. Developers can rape a county more easily, in fact, than they can a city.

    Furthermore, I have no objection whatsoever to Greenville’s working “guts.” Those aren’t what make Greenville ugly. What makes Greenville ugly is that city’s knuckle-dragging conservatism, which dictates that landscaping ordinances, along with any other offical attempt at good planning or beautification, are communist plots envisioned by Satan herself. Therefore, don’t you dare try to make my argument out to be elitist.

    My argument is that there is no requirement for any part of town — be it the guts or whatever else — to be ugly or run down. You’re forgetting that once upon a time before everyone shopped on Tunnel Road, downtown Asheville was Asheville’s working gut, and it’s gorgeous. Likewise, neighborhoods like Chicken Hill and West Asheville were working class before the transplants discovered them, and they’re lovely too. There’s no need for any part of any city to be as hideous as Greenville, nor for it to be hideous at all. That was the philosophy that guided American city planning decades ago before everyone involved in building America suddenly turned stupid.

    To turn this argument back toward the central point, annexation is what keeps the cities of North Carolina from degenerating into the kind of suburban nastiness you find elsewhere — and usually then it’s still a game of catch-up. Developers build a ring of crap around a given NC city, and then the city annexes it and brings it under its regulations for land use and beautification so that new growth in that area won’t be so bad, and so that redevelopment will have to conform to better standards than were in place when the original mess was built. Meanwhile, the developers are building another ring of crap. And so it goes. Cities don’t cause the mess, they’re just the ones in charge of trying to eventually clean it up a little. What you’re advocating is that nobody do a damn thin go clean the mess up at all.

  39. bill smith

    @Gaww writes: [i] These pet projects (greenhouse gas, expanded public transit, etc.) are the main cause of the City’s problems on the spending side,[/i]

    Can you show your numbers to support these claims?

  40. frankwhitehorse

    Haunted Head, in its name-calling frenzy, makes some interesting “froths”. All I can say is that it is a good thing for all of us locals that its “observations” are from the short term and, hopefully, of even shorter duration. Interesting that the only use of the word “elitist” has been from that same arena. Time to stop the talk. You cannot reason with unreasonable people.

  41. FactFinder

    It may be true that certain cities do beautify ugly development projects once they are annexed. But you are missing the main point here. Forcibly annexing someone’s property is a “taking” because you are forcing someone against their will to pay property tax to the city. Here’s the question: Are we a nation of laws or not? The U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantees the right of every citizen to have a “say” (vote) on
    issues, especially when it comes to property rights. In this country, a citizen’s constitutional right to vote on annexation or on any other issue trumps any justification for permitting involuntary annexation in North Carolina. According to May/June News&Observer; articles obtained from WCU Library Archives, North Carolineans regularly voted
    on annexation via referendum prior to the passage of the 1959 N.C. Annexation law. This law disenfranchised them. Hopefully, this year, the right to vote on annexation will be RESTORED to the people of North Carolina – a constitutional right they once enjoyed.

  42. gaww

    On their 2010-2011 budget detail, the only increase in headcount was in the general administrative/executive category. That coast some some significant dollars. Police, fire, etc. pretty much were held the same It also appears that other city “worker bees’ took a hit. But the fat increased.

    Another comment this week or last referred to a 16 year plan and mentioned some of the projects contained within.

  43. BigAl

    Cecil wrote “First: Involuntary annexation …permits a city to annex areas that meet certain definitions of urbanization.”

    Yeah, that “certain definition” being “now it is valuable enough to make us lots of money!”

  44. BigAl

    “Your community would not exist without its proximity to the city you are fighting so hard not to be a part of.”

    And I suppose the City of Asheville and all of it’s natives just spontaneously appeared one day in the middle of an unpopulated, virgin forest of Buncombe County?

  45. hauntedheadnc

    [i]Haunted Head, in its name-calling frenzy, makes some interesting “froths”. All I can say is that it is a good thing for all of us locals that its “observations” are from the short term and, hopefully, of even shorter duration. Interesting that the only use of the word “elitist” has been from that same arena. Time to stop the talk. You cannot reason with unreasonable people.[/i]

    Funny that you would imply by your statement about “us locals” that I wouldn’t count among that number. I was born in Fletcher, if you were curious, and have lived my entire life within 20 miles of downtown Asheville.

    And for another point, if you weren’t accusing me of being elitist, what were you saying with all that about Greenville’s guts? Hm…?

  46. FactFinder

    Those “certain definitions of urbanization” as stated in the 1959 N.C. Annexation law apply to areas with a population over 5,000 or areas with a population under 5,000. If the area in question meets a certain criteria of urbanization, that could be a substitute qualifier for forced annexation. With the aid of the lobbyist N.C. League of Municipalities and paid-for lawmakers, satellite annexations have become legal but must have the consent of those being annexed. We need to stop forced annexation before things get worse! No one has any objection to voluntary annexation; it’s involuntary or forced annexation people object to because they are denied a voice (vote) on the issue. Those who praise the benefits of forcing people to be annexed would be howling in the wind if their vote for local representatives and issues other than annexation were denied. The truth is they are afraid their city property taxes will rise if the city cannot annex and they probably will. The time to
    restore the vote on annexation to the people of N.C. is now!

  47. Big Al, no, the definition for urbanization is provided under state law. And it recognizes that above a certain density a neighborhood begins to exhibit the typical characteristics of a city.

    Cities typically lose money on newly annexed areas for the first several years if they provide full city services. (And I know that provision of those services has not always been carefully attended to. I’m not interested in making excuses for failures, simply stating facts.)

    Invisible: under existing law, forced annexation can be arguably defended as an obligation to existing city tax payers. I would like to see the whole framework of laws changed, not simply one piece of the puzzle. For example, a reasonable trade-off could be amendment of the Sullivan Acts so that existing non-city customers would be grandfathered, but it would not apply to new custormers. Or cities could be permitted to impose an income tax as in other states.

    GAWW, you really don’t have a clue about the City budget. I suggest you read it before you offer empty opinions.

    Finally, congrats to Bill Smith (assuming it’s your actual name). It’s a pleasure to chat with someone who doesn’t feel a need to hide in anonymity.

  48. hauntedheadnc

    [i]And I suppose the City of Asheville and all of it’s natives just spontaneously appeared one day in the middle of an unpopulated, virgin forest of Buncombe County?[/i]

    Well, when the city was founded in the 1790’s that is more or less what happened… Same as every other place. One day there was a patch of woods (or desert or swamp or an island or whatnot), and the next there was a village, and the story of rolls on from there.

    I have a feeling that Asheville would survive without a legion of parasitic suburbs latched onto its flanks like ticks on a dog, but I have my doubts that Asheville’s suburbs would even be here without Asheville — and if Asheville were to vanish overnight, I highly doubt that its suburbs could march along as if nothing untoward had happened.

  49. bill smith

    Mr. Bothwell-Thank you so much for all of your responses as of late. It’s truly refreshing to see a city employee taking the time to set the record straight in such a helpful, informative and straight-forward manner. You’ve educated me on this subject quite a bit with the time you’ve taken to compose these posts. Alas, Bill Smith is not my name. It’s more like my hobby as of late, as I feel I smith quite a few bills these days. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

  50. TallPaul

    “under existing law, forced annexation can be arguably defended as an obligation to existing city tax payers.”

    How can this serve existing taxpayers, other than by taxing property that is annexed, without providing all of the services provided to existing city taxpayers.

    This is another dirty little secret about the NC annexation law. If you are annexed, the city *will* tax you. However, they are not under any concrete obligation to provide all of the services provided to other residents of the city. For example, they are not obligated to run a sewer line through your neighborhood.

    I must agree with those who object to calling the NC annexation law “progressive”. Perhaps this is indicative of their idea of “progress” – growth of the size, power, and scope of government.

  51. invisiblefriend

    @cecilbrothwell

    You response to me had some very valid facts, and i can appreciate them. However, the 2 questions i asked were, quite frankly, a yes or no question. I have always liked your candidness and think you are very earnest in what you believe in, so i dont mean to disresect you. However, it surprises me that you attempted to beat around the bush with verbage directed at me that didnt come close to answering my question. You dont strike me as a typical politition who does that all the time. Thanks.

    On another note, from an outside observer, I dont think Frank has any frothing going on. Haunteds frothing seems to have esculated because he brought it up and is frothing about frothing. I just wanted to tell you guys this as a friend, because if i was frothing, id want you to tell me i was frothing because i might not be aware of it.

  52. JWTJr

    “Progressive” now means:

    “Meet the New Boss”
    … and just like Pete and Roger sang …
    “Same as the old Boss”
    … don’t get fooled again!

    So many of the folks that protested ‘the man’ back in the 60’s and 70’s now have a completely different tune about the man … since now its them … Big government telling folks what to do is now good.

    Funny how that happens.

  53. JWTJr

    “Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?”

    The Five Man Electrical Band

  54. gaww

    @cecilbrothwell

    I have spent quite a bit of time going over Asheville city budgets – including all the publicly available (on-line) supporting documents.

    I have a background in financial and budget analysis and preparation,and have done extensive forensic accounting analysis. I have also have had formal education in Public Finance. The above probably makes me more qualified then much of the City staff and most if not all of the City Council.

    I have also compared Asheville’s budgets to other cities like Wilmington. It clearly illustrates how the City has floated along for years based on historical 5% growth in taxable assessment – but those days are over for the foreseeable future.

    So if you want to address someone who does not know what they are talking about – look in the mirror. If that is not good enough, wait until the next City Council meeting.

  55. bill smith

    @gaww- It’s hard to believe you are as versed in budget analysis as you say since you spend more time discussing your un-provable credentials as you do actually discussing specific details of the budget you claim to have a problem with.

    Where’s the beef?

  56. gaww

    Below is a brief summary that was still too big to get into “letters” to either the Xpress or Citizen Times

    “FREELOADING” BY NON-CITY RESIDENTS
    THE MYTH USED TO JUSTIFY FORCED ANNEXATIONS

    Many individuals outside the City facing forced annexation have already pointed out how disingenuous this argument is. A brief analysis of the Asheville adopted budget for 2010-2011 and over the last few years demonstrates what is really going on. The City is facing increases in expenditures that will most likely exceed existing sources of funds in the coming years – absent any significant new sources of revenue or a willingness to deal with these expenditures directly.

    A review of the adopted budgets for 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 show the direct services that could possibly be considered being of benefit to outside of the city residents are pretty much self-funded by all users of these services.

    These Budget categories are the Water Resources Fund, the Parking Fund, Civic Center Fund, Golf Fund, and Festival Funds – whose sources and use of funds are laid out as individual line items in the budget. The only two that appear to receive some funding through the general fund to help meet expenditures are the Festival Fund (the smallest one at $708,894 and the Civic Center Fund at $2,207,266. All the others are basically self supporting and as such are being fully funded by city and non-city residents who utilize these services. These are also relatively small compared to the largest Fund, the Water Fund of $33,011,200 – which is fully funded by users.

    Asheville bemoans that the City is not allowed to take in more money then it charges out for water services due to state law. To the benefit of all residents – city and outside the city – it is a good thing they cannot. That would allow the City to further burden everyone with excess charges for water service to cover expenditures in other areas not at all related to providing this service.

    One other item of “services” that is buried in the General Fund category is Parks, Rec., and Cultural Arts totaling $9,318,812. Unlike the above Fund items, there is not a matching source specifically identified in the General Fund Sources of Funding to make it possible to evaluate that item by itself.

    Getting back to Festivals and Civic Center Funds – there is a $162.652 subsidy from the General Fund for the former and $392,594 for the latter. These two equal approximately $7.00 per year per City Resident. The rest of the funding comes from food and beverage sales, rent, admissions, sponsors, and other miscellaneous items.

    Oh my God – have we finally found the source of the alleged “freeloading” by non-City residents? If so, does that justify forcing them into the city at a cost of hundreds of dollar per new resident per year to cover the $7.00 above?

    It should be pointed out that a good deal of the benefit of these activities also accrues to tourists – so what is to be done about their also “freeloading” on the backs of City residents by attending these festivals and events? As a solution to this burden, the City may want to consider limiting such events to City residents only if freeloading is a major financial burden.

    On the other hand, a good chunk of the sales taxes that come along with tourists and Buncombe County residents who spend money in the City at and around these events would disappear – as well as numerous businesses that depend on these non-city residents and would not survive otherwise. A more rational solution would be to do a better job managing these events and/or cancel those that do not generate an economic return to these funds.

    It can clearly be seen by looking more closely at the City’s budget that the City’s problem does not originate from providing “services’ to non-residents (as these services are basically self-funded), but result from the rather high level of the “General Fund” relative to its population base versus its ability to fund these escalating costs. The adopted General Fund budget for 1010-2011 is $91,635,962,

    Compare that with the City of Wilmington, which has a population about 1/3 larger than Asheville and has an adopted 2010-2011 General Fund budget of only $84,346,388. Coincidentally, their sources of Funds from Property Taxes and Sales Taxes are almost the same as Asheville’s. Note – one item stands out in their sources that is absent in Asheville’s. This is $2.5 to $3 million annually in room occupancy taxes. This is apparently is due to an odd law here that redirects them to other uses.

    The whole General Fund category is an area that needs to be looked at and dealt with without only looking at putting the funding of these shortages on the backs of forcibly annexed new residents . Property Taxes budgeted for the 1010-2011 period of $46,056,271 (of which approximately $2 million are for vehicles) are the single largest source of funding for the General Fund above. The next largest is “Local Option Sales Tax” of $14,834,688. Getting the law that allocates these changed is also another possible partial solution to the City’s problems in the near term.

    Property taxes in the adopted budget represented an approximate 3.5% yearly increase since 2007-2008 versus a 3% yearly drop in the sales taxes (reflecting the current economic climate). Since real property is only re-assessed every four years , these taxes can only then increase during the four year period from new construction and annexations. Over the last three years, the value of building permits grew 3.1%, so it is likely the rest (.4%) came from annexations (assuming the build-out of all these permits).

    However, the outlook for the current year is for an only a 1.5% overall growth in property taxes (building permits have dropped way off since 2007). The City therefore wants to pull in new revenues through forced annexations to cover the probable shortfalls. Otherwise, absent other new sources, the City will have to deal with the main problem itself – the bloated General Fund. While there have been cuts in certain departments, these have been more than offset by increases in many other areas.

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