When the General Assembly passed annexation reform this year, most believed that it would provide relief for homeowners living in areas targeted by revenue-hungry cities. If 60 percent of property owners in an affected area filed petitions, municipalities could not proceed to involuntarily annex them. However, the City of Fayetteville, mired in a fight to involuntarily annex the affluent Gates Four neighborhood, is preparing to challenge the new law on the basis that it allegedly discriminates against non-property owners and, by extension, racial minorities. From the Fayetteville Observer:
Fayetteville leaders are telling the federal government that they believe North Carolina’s new law that gives homeowners power to fight annexation is unconstitutional.
Mayor Tony Chavonne is urging the Department of Justice to stop a petition under way in the unincorporated Gates Four community that seeks to block annexation. The state law passed this summer stops a forced annexation if at least 60 percent of property owners affected sign a petition.
The city’s argument to the federal government is that the petition process excludes residents who don’t own property, thereby violating their rights in a way similar to allowing only certain people to vote.
Chavonne wrote a letter Monday to the chief of the Civil Rights Division for the Department of Justice urging officials to halt the petitions.
“We believe the voting requirements imposed by the law unfairly discriminate against racial and ethnic minorities residing in our city and the area to be annexed,” he wrote.
His letter said he was speaking on “behalf of the members of Fayetteville City Council.”
The letter signals the city’s latest effort in an eight-year battle to annex the mostly affluent Gates Four. Since the council voted 7-3 in October 2008 to annex Gates Four, the two sides have been fighting in court.
Many of these property owners purchase land in these areas specifically because they are not within the boundaries of mismanaged, high-tax cities. Renters would not necessarily have as much of a stake in the outcome as a property owner, as many are only leasing for a temporary amount of time and they would not immediately feel the burden of increased property taxes that come with annexation. According to Fayetteville’s reasoning, should a property owner who does not live in the annexed area even have a say in the matter?
Of course, no matter how high-minded the City of Fayetteville’s arguments sound, they are pursuing the Gates Four annexation solely for the future tax revenue. As many comments on the Fayetteville Observer article noted, the City Council isn’t exactly pursuing the annexation of less-affluent areas.