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RALEIGH, NC (AP) — Changes to rules governing forced annexations by North Carolina towns and cities are one step closer to passage after being years in the making.

The Senate Finance Committee approved an amended House measure Tuesday, giving landowners more power to block future incorporations by municipalities or more potential benefits if an involuntary annexation occurs.

A proposed forced annexation could be stopped for at least three years if 60 percent of landowners sign petitions opposing it. Municipalities also would be forced to install water and sewer service to houses n annexed areas for free if enough landowners ask for it.

The House approved the bill last month. The next stop is the Senate floor.

A separate pending bill would allow residents in nine contested forced annexations the chance to block the transactions.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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