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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — For years the City of Wilmington has used forced annexation as a way to grow. The city has plans to annex more land outside its borders, but bills in the legislature may get in the way.

Some New Hanover County residents choose to live beyond city limits to avoid paying city taxes, but the concept of forced annexation could affect anyone, no matter their ZIP code, but now the proposed annexation moratorium could mean an end to that.

“This bill stops annexations all across North Carolina for the time being so that we can get a bill put together that allows people in the areas to be annexed to vote on whether or not they want to be brought into a city or town,” said Sen. Thom Goolsby (R-New Hanover), the primary sponsor of the Senate bill.

Wilmington City Councilwoman Laura Padgett is against it, because it would put a hold on annexation plans already in place.

“I don’t have a problem with looking at the annexations laws, and I think there could certainly be some changes, but I don’t think they should be doing a moratorium in the meantime, because that does hurt cities that have already begun the process under current rules and have met the rules,” Padgett said.

Ed Healey chooses to live outside city limits to avoid taxes.

“People who are gonna be annexed obviously should have some say in the matter,” Healy said. “They shouldn’t just have to sit by the sidelines and have the city tell ’em this is what they’re gonna do. I mean, we live in a democracy, and that sounds more like a dictatorship.”

Padgett believes city residents should also have a say in annexation because some feel they are paying for others’ benefits.

“I don’t blame them for not wanting to be annexed,” Padgett said. “Nobody wants to pay more than they have to for their lifestyle, but on the other hand, because we are such a densely populated county, most people are part of the urban scene in Wilmington, and Wilmington residents pay more to keep that going than residents outside the city do.”

Goolsby feels forced annexation is a way for cities to pay for overspending. He hopes the legislature passes the moratorium so there will be time to figure out the details of a new annexation policy.

The moratorium would put a stop to forced annexation for up to 18 months.

New Hanover County’s Danny McComas, Pender County’s Carolyn Justice and Brunswick County’s Frank Iler have co-sponsored a similar bill in the House of Representatives.

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