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Study Areas for 2005 Charlotte Annexation Identified in Steele Creek

(November 25,  2003) Charlotte follows a regular cycle of major annexations every two years. Annexations typically take effect on June 30 of odd numbered years, but the process starts well before that. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission already has identified study areas for Charlotte's 2005 annexations, and virtually all of Steele Creek is included.

In 2002, planners surveyed at an area bounded by Steele Creek Road and the current corporate limits, generally including a corridor along Shopton Road running east to Beam Road. They determined that the area did not qualify for annexation in 2003. "Given the relative lack of development activity in the area (compared to other areas of the county) since that time, the decision was made to study other areas for 2005," said Planning Commission staff member Jonathan Wells who coordinates Charlotte's annexation program.

Noise from the nearby airport tends to make the Shopton Road area a less than ideal residential choice for many people, and airport officials, who have dealt with complaints about airport noise for many years, are discouraging residential development within airport noise corridors.

This year, city planners have turned their attention southward, and virtually all of the unincorporated area within Steele Creek south of Dixie River Road is within the 2005 annexation study area. Charlotte will study this and four other areas over the next year and will announce the areas that the city plans to target sometime around September 2004. If accepted by the City Council, the annexations will take effect on June 30, 2005. (The other four study areas are labeled Brookshire/Lakefront, Mallard Creek Church East, Harrisburg Road, and Community House Road. Areas north of Dixie River Road and the Dixie-Berryhill area are not being considered for annexation in this round.)

Under North Carolina law, municipalities may annex areas involuntarily (meaning without a vote of the residents) if the areas generally meet certain characteristics of urbanization and if the municipality can demonstrate that it is prepared to provide municipal services to the area. This has allowed cities in North Carolina to expand in area in concordance with their physical growth. In other states that do not have such progressive annexation laws, many cities have languished as people and their tax dollars have moved out to surrounding jurisdictions or have wound up with checkerboard boundaries resulting from inefficient parcel by parcel annexations.

In order for Charlotte to annex areas involuntarily in 2005, the following will have to happen:

1. The targeted areas must meet qualification standards as specified by law.

The first requirement is that the area must be adjacent to the existing city limits, and at least one eighth of the area's external boundary must coincide with the existing city boundary.

The second requirement is that the area must meet one of several developmental standards. Areas can qualify if they meet population density thresholds or if a certain percentage of the properties are residential-sized lots. Areas also may qualify based on nonresidential development, including commercial, industrial, institutional, or governmental. The standards do not require that the areas be fully developed. They can consist of a mixture of developed and undeveloped tracts as long as the overall area meets the standards. Additionally, cities can annex less developed land that forms a connection between the existing city limits and outlying development.

Charlotte likely will take advantage of provisions that allow mixing undeveloped areas in with developed areas as they delineate their annexation target areas. However, they may pass on some areas where development is insufficient to qualify adjacent undeveloped areas. If Charlotte annexes only developed areas and passes on undeveloped areas, they may not be able to annex the passed over areas for many years, if at all. They likely will skip some qualifying areas until they are more developed and can be averaged in with adjacent undeveloped parcels and qualify those areas. They also may delineate target areas in a manner that will help future areas meet the requirement of having one eighth of their boundaries coincide with the existing city boundary.

The third requirement is that annexed areas must not be within the boundaries of any other incorporated municipality.

2. The city must demonstrate that it can provide municipal services to the annexed areas.

This means that it must describe the services and how much they will cost and must cite the sources of revenues it plans to use to pay for those services. The city must provide some services, such as garbage collection, immediately upon annexation. Other services may require capital improvements, such as construction of water and sewer lines or fire stations, before residents will be able to receive them at the same level as existing areas within the city, but they must be provided within a reasonable time period.

The 2004 study process will include an analysis of the feasibility of extending water and sewer lines and providing other services. Areas may be passed over for annexation if the city believes that it might not be able to provide services in a timely manner.

3. The city must follow a set procedure leading up to the eventual annexation.

This procedure includes passing a resolution of intent to annex, holding public informational meetings and public hearings, and passing an annexation ordinance.

Many residents of targeted areas resist annexation and the added taxes it brings and appeal to the Charlotte City Council not to annex them. However, if all the things described above happen, Charlotte will annex its targeted areas in 2005. Annexation is not inevitable however. The Mallard Creek Church East area was selected for annexation in 2003, but residents argued that it did not meet the legal requirement. The City Council decided that qualification was questionable and chose to pass on it for that cycle. Of course, it is back on the list for 2005.

2003 property tax rates for Charlotte and unincorporated Mecklenburg County are as follows:

Rates per $100 valuation Within Charlotte Within Unincorporated Mecklenburg County
Mecklenburg County Rate     .7364     .7364
Police District Rate       .1679
Charlotte Rate     .42  
Total   1.1564     .9043

Owners of annexed property will have to pay city taxes but no longer will have to pay the supplementary Police District tax. Tax rates may change by 2005, but the tax on a $120,000 home generally would increase by about $300 or about 27%.

The general schedule for Charlotte's next round of annexations is as follows

September 2004 - Announcement of target areas eligible for annexation and passage of a resolution of intent by the Charlotte City Council

November 2004 - Public Informational Meeting and Public Hearing

January 2005 - Passage of Annexation Ordinance by the Charlotte City Council

June 30, 2005 - Annexation becomes effective

Charlotte certainly cannot and will not annex all of Steele Creek in 2005, but it likely will annex some significant portions of it.

For more information on Charlotte's annexation plans and procedures, visit the Annexation Page on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission web site or contact Jonathan Wells at 704-336-4090.