Leland dispels rumors as Winnabow petitions to become a town

BRUNSWICK COUNTY (WWAY) — A petition to make an unincorporated portion of Brunswick County into a town has set off rumors about Leland.

Members of the Winnabow community are working to get more than 15 percent of residents registered to vote in the unincorporated area to sign a petition and make Winnabow a town. As the process started, rumors started flying that Leland plans to annex Winnabow into its border.

Ken Harrelson, who has lived in Winnabow decades says he began to hear Leland might attempt to annex the area if they remain unincorporated.

“I’ve heard, it’s all over you know,” he said. “I’ve seen it on Facebook, I’ve talked to a lot of my neighbors.”

But according to North Carolina state law, there are only two ways to annex land.

“The state law would have to change dramatically,” Leland Town Manager David Hollis explained. “Or the state legislature would have to adopt some bill that said this area is going to be annexed into any municipality. It’s impossible. It’s impossible for Leland to do it… it’s impossible for Boiling Springs, Bolivia, it’s impossible for anybody to do.”

According to Hollis, most annexations in our area are voluntary, meaning an individual property owner touching the border or within three miles of it can petition to join the town.

The second way is a town-initiated annexation. If a town wants an area close to the border contiguous to the border, with 60 percent or more of the land directly bordering Leland, residents in said area are given the opportunity to decide by vote.

“If they vote against it, it doesn’t occur,” Hollis said. “If they vote in favor of it, it does occur. That’s the only way a town initiated annexation can occur.”

The entire Winnabow area is 160 square miles, more than half the size of Charlotte. While it could never be fully annexed under current state law, many like Harrelson still worry.

Legally, areas of Winnabow bordering Leland can petition to join the town, up to three miles from the border. Some property owners off Old Town Creek Road have already asked to be annexed.

Harrelson said he would prefer Winnabow not become a town for tax purposes, but says he signed the petition to keep his area from annexation.

“I wouldn’t want to change anything. I don’t want Winnabow to be a town,” he said. “I don’t want Leland. I mean, I would rather people locally if it came down to Winnabow or Leland. I would rather local people in Winnabow start their own town than to have to deal with Leland.”

According to the Winnabow Volunteer Fire Department, the petition to become a town was delivered to the Board of Elections Wednesday. They should find out if they received enough signatures, at least 15 percent of area registered voters, in the next two weeks.

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