Weddington Town Council votes to continue annexation study
After more debate weighing individual property rights against a community’s control of development, a divided Weddington Town Council voted Monday, Oct. 11, to proceed with a study of involuntarily annexing several nearby communities.
Annexation has divided residents who want to protect the town’s borders from big box development and private landowners who don’t want any government dictating what they do with their land.
Chatsworth, an unincorporated Union County subdivision off Providence Road, along with the neighborhoods of Victoria Lake, Hawkstone and Hampton Fare, sit adjacent to the town’s current boundaries and at the center of the argument.
As an advisor to the town, Centralina Council of Governments labeled the subdivisions “areas of interest” for Weddington. If Weddington annexed the communities, which state law allows towns to do without a vote of the residents being annexed, the town would then have a stronger say in how land surrounding the neighborhoods develops in the future.
Three Chatsworth residents spoke against the involuntary annexation, including Rep. Curtis Blackwood, a Republican representing House District 68 and that part of Union County. Blackwood likened the annexation to America’s Colonial days. “This feels like taxation without representation,” he said.
The head of the Chatsworth Homeowners Association concurred, bringing the message that neighborhood residents don’t want to join Weddington. The association president and Blackwood cited a neighborhood survey, indicating 70 percent of residents oppose the annexation – and most certainly the town tax bills that would come in their mail.
Mayor Nancy Anderson said the issue of involuntary annexation arose at an earlier town council retreat, as town leaders looked for ways to protect the town from a flood of chain retailers.
“We looked at how we could protect our borders and how to allow residents to have a say,” she said.
The town’s other option is exercising zoning jurisdiction outside the town limits, in an area recognized by state regulations as any town’s extra-territorial jurisdiction. Using that authority, the town council could impose zoning controls without much say from residents living in the extra-territorial zone.
The more council members discussed their options, Anderson said, the “more it became apparent that we needed to engage in some level of annexation.”
But throughout the evening, council members disagreed. Council member Jerry McKee said the town should not dictate property rights. “A potential annexation would dictate what a private property owner can and can’t do with his land,” he said.
The town is annexing the homes so it control undeveloped land, or as McKee phrased it, “suck it in so they can control it.”
While Anderson argued the town needs the future ability to “reinforce design standards,” Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Barry said the annexation would provide Chatsworth residents with “double coverage” from a police and fire perspective.
State law that allows involuntary annexation also requires towns to meet standards for annexation, such as the population density in the annexation target. At the end of the evening, council members had to decide whether to ask Centralina Council of Governments to study if the proposed annexation area fits state requirements.
Council members Werner Thomisser and McKee voted against proceeding any further, while members Robert Gilmartin and Barry voted to conduct the study.
Anderson broke the tie, and the study come next.