I live in Royal Pines — the area [in Arden] up for annexation. My house is valued at $135,600 by the county. I pay $711 in property taxes — not including the $107 for the fire department — all of which I pay out in $50 increments, starting with my first paycheck of each new year. By the time the bills go out in late August, I am all paid up.
If I were annexed, I would have to pay almost $1,300 for a 900-square-foot house on one-fifth of an acre.
I bought my house in 1993. I bought it because I knew this small house would amply satisfy my needs. I am 61 years old now and completely self-supporting, no relatives. After taxes I take home about $21,000 a year. I have a small home-equity loan, which I have used to make repairs on my house. I will work till I drop and happily so.
The annexation proposal talks up capital improvements to Royal Pines that include the water system, city garbage pickup and an extra officer on duty. Sidewalks are hypothetical. Bus service is not even mentioned. After I heard about the annexation proposal, I did some calling around. I found out that all the water pipes we’ve had replaced and the fire hydrants that were installed over the last few years were paid for by the residents of Royal Pines. This was done by way of a capital improvement fee that has been attached to our water bills over the last few years. The projects are done and paid for.
The city [of Asheville] complains that, by law, it cannot increase our water usage fees — so something’s gotta give. If they could apply an increase, my yearly water bill would be somewhere between $180 and $200 — not the $570 that annexation would add to my property tax bill.
I don’t have garbage pickup. I go to the transfer station every two or three weeks. For $1, I can toss my couple of grocery bags of trash. This costs me under $20 a year. I understand that my neighbors pay about $200 a year for pickup service. I do a great deal of recycling.
An extra officer on duty? To spot the occasional garden-tool thief, maybe? This is a 1950s, working-class neighborhood — which is why I love it. For 17 years, I’ve left my door unlocked during the day. Come on in! Take my 13-year-old Toshiba television set! Take my $45 sofa from the Habitat for Humanity home store. No serious thief is going to drive through this area and think the reward is worth the risk. We all know and watch out for each other here.
Lastly, I saw a list of Buncombe County foreclosures. In 2010, the 28704 zip code has suffered from 50 to 74 foreclosures in the time period between January and July. Just a few days ago, the Sheriff came out to remove a family from a small home on Royal Pines Drive. I already know of three older homeowners who will have to sell — in this market, for heaven’s sake.
So Royal Pines has nothing to gain from annexation, but plenty to lose. I spoke to someone from City Council a couple of weeks ago who seemed somewhat conflicted about the move, but added that, being on City Council, they had to look out for the city’s interests. It’s the principal of the thing, [the Council member] said. But you’re putting principals before people, I said. I know, [the Council member] said, quietly.
So what happens to the Golden Rule, I wonder, when people become City Council members? It seems that, for the most part, it gets checked at the chamber door.
— Diana LaSpada