New law limits how and where Leland can annex land

LELAND, NC (WWAY) — A new law is aimed at a rapidly growing Brunswick County town. Senate Bill 911 is already affecting Leland and in a way, Winnabow.

The new law limits Leland from annexing land more than a mile and a half away from its primary corporate region, and puts further restrictions on how property owners can annex into the town.

Leland is considered one of the fastest growing towns in North Carolina, with its population nearly doubling over the last decade.

Earlier this year, residents in Leland’s unincorporated neighbor, Winnabow, began circulating a petition to become a town to avoid eventually being annexed into Leland. Jacob Ashley has lived in Winnabow 24 years, and signed the petition, but still worried he’d have to pay more taxes.

“Most definitely,” he said over the phone. “Especially, pretty much when you start bringing in that stuff to annex the area. Then you have the possibility of having to pay monthly payments for stuff even if you don’t want to hook up to it.”

Representative Frank Iler believes this was one of the reasons Senator Bill Rabon brought Senate Bill 911 forward.

“This is probably something that Senator Rabon thought would take care of the situation without Winnabow actually becoming a town,” Iler explained. “Although, that’s not off the table. That’s in the proper committee.”

Rabon’s bill passed both the House and the Senate. Now, Leland can only annex a piece of property that is within a mile and a half from its border, which shortens the distance from its previous three miles.

To annex, land owners will need to petition, getting signatures from every property owner affected. Representative Iler was one of the dozens of lawmakers who voted in favor of the bill.

“I don’t believe in any kind of forced annexation just to get more tax base just to charge more taxes,” he said.

The new law also states property owners who want to annex must state on the petition that their decision is not based on being told that a utility would be withheld from them unless they sign. Iler says in the past, the Town of Leland has used H2Go, a water and sewer utility, as a sort of “carrot” to attract interest in annexation.

“You can’t just promise this service to one group and then another group takes you in and charges you more taxes,” Iler said over the phone.

Ashely says the law’s passing is a relief to Winnabow residents.

“If it’s getting reduced down to a mile and a half, then yes,” he said. “The farther away, the better for me. I just like to sit in my backyard, not able to hear anybody if that makes sense.”

Senator Rabon never responded to our requests for comment. We reached out to the Town of Leland about this law. Their spokeswoman said no one was available to speak, but provided this statement:

The area in northern Brunswick County is growing rapidly and the Town of Leland is central to much of the growth. As the community continues to grow, it is important and reasonable that it does so in a way to benefit both the existing and future citizens of the area. The Town helps to facilitate and build a shared sense of community in many of its services and offerings. The Town offers services that many developers consider valuable, such as planning, building inspections, storm water services, road maintenance, public safety, etc. All towns/cities in North Carolina are municipal corporations of the State and the powers/authorities granted to them are provided by the NC Legislature, at their discretion. The Legislature can allow, remove, or uniquely regulate the powers/authorities/services of a town/city, so in many ways, towns/cities are subject to their will and pleasure. As for S911, the Town of Leland will obey this law like all others applicable to the Town. 

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