Standing-room-only crowd listens to annexation pitch
Hundreds of people stood in line for as long as 20 minutes in 90 degree heat last week for a presentation by the Hunter Oaks Homeowners Association concerning a proposed annexation into the Village of Marvin.
Alarmed by reports that the meeting might be disrupted by members of neighboring subdivisions who are resisting a forced annexation by Marvin, the Hunter Oaks HOA executive board demanded a picture ID, confirming residency in Hunter Oaks from every person lined up to attend.
The Hunter Oaks subdivision, of approximately 940 homes, straddles Rea Road just south of Tom Short Road and very close to Charlotte and the Mecklenburg County line.
More than 204 Hunter Oaks households were represented at the meeting, bringing an estimated 320 people out July 27 to Marvin AME Zion Church for the standing-room-only event.
In an email to residents prior to the meeting, Todd Haynes, the Hunter Oaks HOA president, contradicted a published report that accused the HOA of misleading homeowners about the seriousness of the issue.
“There was no ‘fear factor” from Marvin involved in our actions,” Haynes said. “Your board was not scared to act on this. We based our decision on factual information and discussions with others who are more informed on the issues,” Hayes said. “Your HOA board is working to protect the best interest of Hunter Oaks residents.”
Organizers had not anticipated such a large number in attendance, initially setting up in a meeting hall capable of seating 125 people. It became quickly obvious as the waiting lines grew longer they would have to move into the main church, which had a stated capacity of 300.
After a brief introduction by Haynes, co-presenters Liza Kravis and Neil Gimon gave a PowerPoint presentation of the issues and options facing the subdivision. Over the course of an hour, Kravis and Gimon covered four different scenarios: Do nothing and hope for the best; incorporate Hunter Oaks into a separate municipality; allow Charlotte to involuntarily annex; or voluntarily annex into Marvin.
The advantages and disadvantages involving tax rates, police and fire protection as well as amenities like parks and greenways were discussed in detail for residents.
Currently, the annexation agreement between the cities of Charlotte, Weddington, Stallings and Marvin prevents Charlotte from annexing into Union County and vice versa. The 10-year agreement was initially signed in 1986, renewed in 1994 and again in 2004, and next comes up for renewal in 2014.
The annexation agreement covers the three-mile portion of Union County and Mecklenburg County contiguous to the county line beginning at Pleasant Plains Road on the northwest boundary to the South Carolina/North Carolina state line on the southeast boundary.
Blocking annexation efforts
The concern over Charlotte annexation has led residents to reach out beyond their community to contact N.C. Sen. Tommy Tucker, N.C. Rep. Craig Horn and County Commissioner Todd Johnson in an effort to keep Charlotte on its own side of the line.
In 2011 the North Carolina General Assembly passed the Annexation Reform Act of 2011, which for the first time since the original annexation laws of 1959 empowers citizens with the right to petition to deny an involuntary annexation. If 60 percent of the property owners subject to a forced annexation sign the petition, the annexation effort is defeated. Prior to this bill, the only remedy was to sue in Superior Court.
In special local legislation passed during the 2011 session, the petition to deny annexation power was extended to eight recent involuntary municipal annexations statewide, including the 2008 Marvin annexation of 14 subdivisions along New Town Road. Petitions were sent out to almost 1,500 property owners last month who have until November to return them to the board of elections.
Of the options available to the Hunter Oaks property owners, voluntarily annexing into Marvin is the option most favored when the participants were polled by a show of hands at the July meeting. None of the other options received more than token support.
The Hunter Oaks HOA plans to continue to reach out to homeowners, they said, sharing information and planning additional informational meetings.