Carrboro Considers Annexation

Tonight's Carrboro Board of Aldermen meeting was mostly dedicated to considering a possible annexation of the various neighborhoods along the west side of Rogers Road, including the Highlands, Fox Meadow, Fox Run and other 1980's and 1990's subdivisions. The proposed annexation area also includes about half of the lots that actually front on Rogers Road - these lots are part of a neighborhood that was largely built in the 1950's and is simply known as the Rogers Road neighborhood.

I proposed that we take annexation of the Rogers Road neighborhood off the table because the neighborhood asked Chapel Hill and Carrboro to consider relocating the two Towns' annexation boundary line so that we would not end up with half the neighborhood in Carrboro and half in Chapel Hill. We held those discussions about 8 years ago in connection with compensating Rogers Road area residents for the impact of the landfill (which was built after the Rogers Road neighborhood was already there; Highlands etc. were all built after the landfill).

The Board voted 6-1 to proceed with the proposal to split the neighborhood, but said that we will have a conversation with Chapel Hill about adjusting the town boundary during the time that we are considering annexing the area. Call me a skeptic, but the last discussion that I know of regarding changing the annexation boundary between Chapel Hill and Carrboro took four years to complete.

I guess we will see . . .



Mark--I live in a neighborhood that is split between Carrboro and Orange Co and it's a royal pain. I'm not sure how different the zoning regulations are between Carrboro and Chapel Hill, but there are some whopping differences between Carrboro and Orange Co. Fortunately for my neighborhood, we are only divided for zoning purposes. It would be worse if we received different services as well.I'm sorry for the Rogers Road residents that the other alderman didn't endorse your recommendation.


Mark, or anyone who attended these discussions,

Can you summarize the arguments in favor of annexation (1) of the area as a whole, and (2) of the Rogers Rd. area?

I've watched Durham annex areas that didn't want it, and annex around areas that DID want it.

Unless there are truly compelling reasons for annexation, I would recommend annexing only those contiguous neighborhoods where over 50% of registered voters (not just those participating) endorsed annexation by petition.

The Board voted to consider annexation. As for the Rogers Road issue, if Chapel Hill and Carrboro have the political will, the separation of neighborhood issue can be resolved. The Carrboro Board of Alderman authorized the Mayor on behalf of the Board to write a letter to Chapel Hill to begin discussions.

I am glad that Chapel Hill may begin discussions soon about the annexation of the Rogers Road area because I am concerned about the lack of transportation services for the residents living there. As you know, this area is not in Town limits and technically Chapel Hill Transit is not able to provide service. Back in April, a resident in the neighborhood presented a petition to the town council to address this issue. Here is the link, which also has good information generally about the different transit options those residents may have without Chapel Hill Transit (Orange County), as well as general annexation issues and explanations:

Having heard a resident of this neighborhood speak of the issue, I'm convinced that this struggling neighborhood would do nothing but benefit from the services that the Town provides. This resident said that he would be more than happy to pay the taxes to have the transportation that would link his family to the cultural, educational, social benefits that Chapel Hill and Carrboro provide.

New-Urban Imperialism

On November 16, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen will consider the annexation of neighborhoods that almost uniformly do not want to be annexed. Town documents use the present and future verb tenses (FAQ “Why is Carrboro choosing to annex us?”) rather than the conditional, suggesting that Carrboro would like it to be a done deal.

This is wrong. Carrboro's arguments for annexation echo European self-justifications for colonizing Africa in the 1800s. True, that analogy is overdrawn in some ways, such as voting rights. But even here, Carrboro has set up this long-contemplated annexation to occur right after an election, so that the new citizens could not vote on the Board members who would have voted for the annexation.

A full analysis of this new-urban imperialism is too long for one posting, and I will post separately, on separate days, on the following aspects:

Unwanted annexation
Use of municipal services
Access to urban area amenities
Budget motivations
Chapel Hill alternative
Electoral consequences

I was a member of the committee that in the mid 90s negotiated the most recent changes to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro boundary agreement. Our changes dealt primarily with the Smith Level Road boundary just south of the towns. This negotiation was very difficult and required balancing property area and current and future tax valuations evenly between the two towns. Believe me, neither town wants to re-open those discussions.
The portion of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro boundary that Rogers Road forms was agreed to many years ago, before I was involved, and most importantly, long before the new neighborhoods along it were built.

I volunteer to be the heavy. No one wants to be annexed. Whenever a residential area is proposed for annexation, its residents line up at town hall and recite "What do we get for our property tax increase? We get bus service which we don't use, and garbage collection which we now handle privately for 15 dollars per month."

In the middle 1980s, Ed Vickery, a local attorney and outspoken Chapel Hill council member, after sitting through several annexation public hearings, got so irritated the he spoke up frankly. He said that he wanted to say something that needed to be said, and though it would make him quite unpopular, he didn't mind because he wasn't running for another term.

Ed began "There is a population of people who center their lives on Chapel Hill.
They work here, they shop here, they recreate here, they send their kids to school and various programs here, and they use town services. But they choose to live just outside the town, often primarily to avoid paying town property taxes. Even real estate ads tout that the buyer can enjoy the benefits of Chapel Hill but avoid its taxes.
When an annexation is proposed, the to-be-annexed people scream that there's nothing in it for me, only higher costs". Ed then said boldly to the speakers "You've been enjoying the benefits of Chapel Hill for free, and now we're asking you to pay your fair share". Mr. Vickery made few friends that night, but he got the message correct.

I would add this. Anyone who bought a house in Highlands, Camden, or the other neighborhoods knew at the time they bought their homes, or could have known with a phone call, that they would eventually be annexed, indeed annexed into Carrboro.
Chapel Hill and Carrboro have done a superb job in defining their regions of future growth, and have presented this information publicly, consistently, and with generous advance warning.

Thanks for your response, Joe, which provides a good segue into some thoughts I'll post later in the week. I offer a couple of quick points in return at the end of this posting.

Unwanted annexation

They didn't want it in Ireland, Africa, or India, when Britain came to annex them, and told them that it was good deal for them, what with the public goods of security, industrial goods, global networks, and civilization (new urbanism?) and all.

For a long time, they didn't want a U.S. presence in Puerto Rico, either. But a 1998 referendum actually opted for remaining a territory of the United States. Let's say that back in 1995, the United States and Spain had agreed that Puerto Rico should belong to one or the other of them, because of all that both countries had done historically for Puerto Rico's infrastructure; that is, the two larger countries said that Puerto Rico could not be independent, because they say that P.R. benefits from past and current associations, including millions in annual U.S. subsidies. Then any U.S. rejection of independence by referring to this 1995 agreement with Spain would be a self-referential, circular argument.

Most of the people who live in the proposed annexation areas north of Carrboro do not want to be annexed. Period. There ought to be some exceedingly compelling reason to annex them against their will. My argument is that the reasons cited by Carrboro come nowhere close to justifying forced annexation.

Joe reiterates some of Carrboro's arguments. I will address them in greater detail later this week, but I'll take up a couple here.

One implicit claim is that town/city services, and prerogatives, should take precedence over county ones, or even state ones. The Town of Carrboro and Joe both list some of those. A line-by-line analysis later this week will betray the weakness of the argument that periphery areas ought to be brought into towns instead of left in counties.

Furthermore, the claim of what's “fair” is a handy rhetorical device. But it's also a red flag, for it is the absence of any one compelling argument that leaves people resorting to moral and philosophical claims.

For example, the state of North Carolina could note that it pour tens or hundreds of millions of dollars into UNC Hospitals, whose proximity the people of Chapel Hill enjoy, perhaps even to save their lives in cardiac and neurological episodes. Therefore, the state could argue, it would only be “fair” for Highway 86 (S. Columbia Street) to be widened to four lanes, so that those living beyond Chapel Hill could enjoy improved access at all times of day. My point is that nearly any concern on any side of a debate can cite “fairness” in its support. It can sound compelling from the first side that uses it, but the term obscures rather than illuminates.

But back to my main point today. When neighborhoods do not want to be annexed, they should not be annexed, except where extreme circumstances demand it. In our case, they do not.

Dear Senators and Representatives,

My name is Mark Gill, and I am a resident of a subdivision which is seeking voluntary annexation into Chapel Hill, the town with which we have a natural connection, over forced annexation into Carrboro. Over 300 county citizens (in two neighborhoods) have unanimously decided to exercise their statutory rights for voluntary annexation into Chapel Hill over Carrboro. Carrboro Officials intend to crush that right.

The issue is simple - values.

You may recall, Carrboro is the same town whose mayor, Mike Nelson, proudly displayed a painting of the American flag, the stars of which were arranged as a Nazi swastika, in the Town's Boardroom. The town Aldermen acted unconcerned over this, until public outrage demanded the removal of the object, upon which time it was then moved to the Mayor's office. Carrboro leadership believes they are the "Paris of the Piedmont,", but indeed even Paris (France) was occupied by dictatorial elements at one time, forcing their will upon the masses.

Additionally, Carrboro officials have treated county citizens with disregard in land use issues that affected us through a joint planning agreement. Their bias towards one such development, Winmore, was such that Carrboro's own Appearance Commission stated that Carrboro Officials were "treating developers like customers, and the land use ordinances like a product for sale. This looks bad." This did not deter Carrboro leadership, however.

Having turned a deaf ear to county citizens over the Winmore development, Carrboro leadership then purposely annexed the Winmore properties, knowing that action would eliminate the county citizens' elected representatives, the Orange County Commissioners, from the planning process for the Winmore development. In a public meeting, Mayor Nelson then openly mocked hundreds of county citizens, proclaiming, "If county citizens want representation on Winmore, they should apply for annexation into Carrboro." None of the Aldermen dissented from this brazen statement.

When a county citizen filed a lawsuit against Carrboro over the planning of Winmore, the Carrboro Mayor and Aldermen responded by inviting the Winmore developer into lawsuit, fully knowing the developer was threatening to sue to citizen for any delays of their project. The citizen could not pursue further legal action without risking financial ruin.

These actions, and others, do not speak of a political leadership wishing to respect the values and rights of all people, but rather, a leadership that is willing to do whatever is necessary to push their own agenda.

For these reasons, I ask you to intercede on the behalf of over 300 Orange County citizens, and protect our values of fair and representative government, by stopping Carrboro from their planned involuntary annexation of our neighborhood, and permit us to complete our process of voluntary annexation into the town of Chapel Hill.

In the next few days, we will look to convey our issues to our newly elected House Representative, Bill Faison, who may then better present an understanding of the issues to you.

I know your time is valuable, but we are desperate to obtain political leadership that represents values which we believe make North Carolina a great State. I thank you for listening to this serious issue. Please protect us from Carrboro Officials run amok.

Best regards,

Mark F. Gill
8329 Loch Laven Lane
Orange County, NC 27516

The Chapel Hill News seemed to indicate today that Chapel Hill has no interest in annexing this neighborhood.

A couple of thoughts on annexation--

First, I take issue with Mark's characterization of the result of our discussion as a 'plan to split the neighborhood' In reference to the decision not to peremptorily exclude the Rogers Road, Fox Meadow and Fox Run neighborhoods from the discussion at the outset. The reason being (or my reasoning at any rate) was, that to do so would exclude those neighborhoods from formal participation in the discussion, and preclude the possibility of entertaining the notion of provision of new, municipal services to the area. As Laurin pointed out above, requests have been made to extend Transit service (which is precluded for any areas outside the municipal boundaries). As well, the town has received comments that some residents of these neighborhoods would like to be annexed, not just to provide greater access to services, but to provide for enfranchisement allowing direct participation in Town affairs. In any case, while I take issue with Mark's approach in this case, I agree with the general thrust.

Nonetheless, it is worth noting, that the Board had already recognized the fact that these neighborhoods are sufficiently different in physical characteristics--primarily density--from the newer neighborhoods to the north, to warrant separate consideration. As a result--in addition to the considerations that Mark expressed above and were previously discussed by the Board, the Board directed staff to evaluate those distinct neighborhood groups separately,--hence, the creation of annexation areas 'A', and 'B'-- and will be considered as such.

A point that Joe alluded to in his post that Jeff doesn't address is the fact that the proposed areas are contained in what is called a 'transition area', which is defined by the Joint Planning Agreement(JPA) of 1987 (reaffirmed and amended in 1998, with the adoption of the NTA Small Area Plan, with annexation provisions renewed in 2003), as areas already urban, or designated to become urban in character, and recognized as areas designated for future annexation by the town. This is not assumed or implied, but expressly stated in both the JPA,and the accompanying Joint Planning Area Land Use Plan.

Thus far, Jeff's central argument revolves around the notions that annexations of the sort being contemplated are essentially an aggressive act by a hostile power over the objections of those with no franchise, and are being pursued as a matter of legal prerogative over the objections of the County as a sovereign jurisdiction--hence the analogy drawn with British colonial adventurism.

Rendering this argument inoperative are both the nature of the Joint Planning Agreement, and the process that led to it's adoption: The Joint Planning Agreement is the result of a multi-year process engaging Orange County, Chapel Hill and Carrboro, that began in 1981 to provide a multi-jurisdictional, cooperative framework to provide for orderly planning in southern Orange county. Among the key components of the Agreement, and the accompanying land-use plan are: Urban growth boundaries defining the ultimate limits to the towns' growth(annexation areas), to prevent uncontrolled growth and its resultant sprawl; Target densities and base density limits within the urban growth boundaries; Provision of joint review of any changes in land-use plans within the transition areas.

The process used to arrive at this agreement consisted of multi-jurisdictional planning and review, participation from residents in both towns, as well as the contemplated Transition Areas, followed by pubic hearings in all three jurisdictions, and finally required legislative action on the part of all three governing bodies to become signatories, and thus activate the agreement in 1988. Moreover, the events leading up to the adoption of the Small Area Plan for the Northern Transition Area, allowing for 'village mixed uses' developed along 'new Urbanist' principles, followed very much the same process, beginning in 1991,followed by intensive planning and public participation process, culminating in final adoption by requiring JPA amendments approved by, yes, Orange County, Chapel Hill and Carrboro in 1998(see the full document at http// Every subsequent amendment to the JPA, as well as renewal of the annexation provisions, required action on the part of both the towns, and the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

In sum, at every milestone in Joint Planning since 1987, the direct representatives of the residents of the Northern Transition Area--The Orange County Board of Commissioners--have, acting as the agents of their constituents, agreed to, and reaffirmed the designation of this area for future annexation, and have engaged their constituents throughout. Carrboro is proceeding not only in a manner consistent with law and prerogative, but in both the spirit and letter of our cooperative agreements with Orange County. To be sure, there were, and remain, differences of opinion about these processes, and no doubt some folks were unhappy with the outcomes. But if one were to follow Jeff's logic, All of this painstaking work should be simply tossed aside at the first objection--And if taken to it's logical conclusion--would argue for a cecession provision in the town (or county) charter. 'New Urban Imperialism?' A catchy campaign slogan, eh? Maybe. But in light of the facts, it just doesn't pass muster: If the process I've described above can be defined as 'Imperialism', we probably need a new definition for 'Participatory Democracy'.



If those neighborhoods were ever really given the option of keeping Carrboro & Chapel Hill out forever, I'd be surprised.

In any case, I wouldn't argue that a 22-year-old college senior who gets engaged to her boyfriend is obligated to carry it out after she grows and changes -- and her fiance changes even more -- during the next couple of years, and she changes her mind. The marriage should be voluntary.

More later.


Ignoring sensitive issues isn't the same as sensitivity! How we frame sensitive issues, without coming across as intellectual elitist, is a challenge we should embrace rather than run away from.

Do you really think these citizens would sit quietly by for annexation even if the art incident hadn't occurred? Are you going to take the word of one individual that values are the problem? My advice, follow the money. $300 more in taxes per year (estimated) seems like a more likely objection to me.

Why does Carrboro want to annex these neighborhoods? I'm assuming it's for the taxes. Has there been a cost analysis? If so where can it be found?


A full powerpoint presentation(reproduced in .pdf) outlining the annexation proposal can be found on our web site. A comprehensive cost analysis (For residents, as well as the Town) is included. The link is on the home page: http//


Good question, Terri, which I'm going to address more fully later this week.

The net proceeds to Carrboro from the annexation are estimated to start around $640,000 per year.

Thanks Alex. So Carrboro is doing this because they want the tax revenues?

Clearly, annexation is a difficult issue. No one ever likes to be annexed and emotions tend to run high when the topic is discussed. Perhaps that explains some of the rhetorical flourishes we witness in this thread.

North Carolina has strong annexation laws designed to keep cities and towns healthy and dynamic. The rational behind having annexation laws in place is sound. I encourage all interested parties to read up on the history and rational behind these laws before coming to judgement on "Carrboro run amok."

Several points have been made on this thread that deserve some attention. First and foremost, comparing white European colonization of black Africa to Carrboro's proposed annexation is over-dramatic. Similarly, the US occupation and colonization of Puerto Rico is a bit of stretch as well.

The Joint Planning Agreement and the annexation boundaries it includes, was negotiated by the elected representatives of the residents of Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Orange County. At every step of the way, the public was included in the conversation. Subsequent to the decision by the elected officials to create the JPA, voters who were unhappy with the annexation boundaries or any other aspect of the agreement, have had numerous opportunities to replace elected officials who support the JPA with those who don't.

Does this really sound like colonization of Africa? Really?

But perhaps subsequent statements by other readers come closer to reflecting honestly the subtext with which some view this question of annexation. Mr. Gill's comments about "values" demand some reflection.

The gentleman's statement referred to last year's art controversy as an example of the town's values. (I will ignore for the moment that there were numerous factual errors in his retelling of the history of that issue, and focus on the issue he himself raises--values).

Yes, I was--and remain--proud of how that issues was handled in Carrboro. We stood up for the right of an artist to express her point of view. The artist, in this case, created a show of 30+ works of art that examined patriotism, the flag, and what it means to be an American. Most of her pieces were positive and some critical. And, yes, several were challenging. But she had a right, under our constitution, to express her viewpoint and to have it respected even by those who disagreed.

Carrboro stood firm in support of constitutionally guaranteed rights of self-expression and freedom of speech. We also stood firm against censorship. One of the things I am proudest of as mayor and as a citizen of Carrboro is that I live in a town that values freedom.

Mr. Gill seems to imply that Chapel Hill would be a more comfortable community for his nieghbors and he to live in because of a percieved difference in values between Carrboro and Chapel Hill. While there are differences between the two towns, I have seen no evidence that Chapel Hill is more prone to or supportive of censorship than Carrboro. Indeed, Chapel Hill has a long history of defending freedom, constitutional rights, and progressive American values.

So, this begs a question. Could the term "values" be code for something else?

I don't know any more of what Mark Gill means about values than what he writes.

But I do know that I heard African-Americans in our community compare having any kind of swastika on the walls of town hall to having any version of the n-word on the walls of town hall. That is first-hand knowledge from the week before the 2003 election. I'm willing to say that I would also oppose the n-word being up in Town Hall. If anyone wants to play the censorship card on that, so be it. Then we can have a hypothetical debate (elsewhere) about who would display the n-word in Town Hall.

Perhaps sensitivity is one of the values that Mark G. implies.

This is not the time or place to re-open the swastika debate. However, I must say I am disappointed that some people in this community cannot understand the use of this symbol in the context of polical art. Not only do I think the swastika flag is OK, I think it's very apt statement for what the flag and our government have come to represent.

Speaking as a Jew now, I think this piece of art is right on in alerting us to the increasingly fascist tendencies of the federal government. This is an important warning. I am proud of the town for displaying it, and especially proud of the Mayor for defending it.

This appearing in an art exhbition is hardly the same as just slapping a swastika with no context on a wall. Similarly, the n-word is used in a variety of art forms and most people these days understand that it can have a variety of meanings that change depending on the speaker and the context. I find it hard to believe that in a sophisticated community like Carrboro that folks wouldn't understand the role of such symbols in art and culture.

In fact, I think it's more likely that they "get it" just fine, but find it's a useful tool for jabbing public officials about whom they have no other popular complaints.


I'm not really interested in extending this discussion, but since part of your statement seems to refer to me --

"I find it hard to believe that in a sophisticated community like Carrboro that folks wouldn't understand the role of such symbols in art and culture" --

I'll reply briefly.

I disagree with the display of such virulent symbols under certain government circumstances. That does not in any way connote that I fail to understand their role in that work or others. The two are distinct (as you suggest that I and others might know).

I don't think you mean to call the objecting African-Americans unsophisticated.

Terri, I agree. I didn't bring up the other stuff here. Jeff

Actually "certain government circumstances" and "others" are not particualrly distinct to me. Are you saying it would be OK in a privately-owned gallery but not in a publicly-owned gallery?

I don't know or care to whom you spoke with about this exhibit in 2003, so I'm obviously not calling them anything. If you read my comment clearly, you'll see that my opinion is not that folks are unsophisticated, but that they are behaving that way for political purposes.

Let's get back to annexation.

Thanks, Joe. I really appeciated your comments from Ed Vickery, “You've been enjoying the benefits of Chapel Hill for free, and now we're asking you to pay your fair share."

I really don't get how so many supposedly-conservatives think they deserve to get it for free. If they don't need any town services then why don't they live out in northern Orange County? They are on the edge of the town precisely because of what the town has to offer.

Then again, if I was Carrboro, I don't know if I'd want to add those self-righteous conservatives to the municipal voter rolls. That is Chapel Hill's specialty... Ooops, did I say that out loud?

To Mike's statement:

"At every step of the way, the public was included in the conversation. Subsequent to the decision by the elected officials to create the JPA, voters who were unhappy with the annexation boundaries or any other aspect of the agreement, have had numerous opportunities to replace elected officials who support the JPA with those who don't."

I find this rationale disingenuous. What chance would those living in these little annexation areas have to get someone elected to protect their interests, either at the city or county level? Democracy is not just about the majority imposing its will on the minority, and it is not right to lay the responsibility for this back on them for failing to do the next-to-impossible.

I can see the reasons for annexing these areas (mainly financial), but please don't pretend they had a fair chance at having a say in their destiny.

Maybe they are on the edge of town because the town moved out to them? What services have they been getting from town that you think they should be paying for? the right to use grocery stores or movie theaters? We Orange Co residents pay for services same as town residents Ruby, plus we are not all "self-righteous conservatives" because we don't choose to live in town (or because we can't afford to). Why not ask why town services cost so much more. Since you have higher density, seems like your tax rates should be lower.

Well, Ed, it's really more complex than that even.

Highlands, Highland Meadows, Highlands North, Meadow Run and Camden Place were all built in the 1990's.

Fox Run was built in 1985-1989 or so. Right during the time that the Joint Planning Area was being negotiated (mid 1980's) and adopted (1987).

So everyone (I think) in Annexation Area A moved there after the JPA had designated this area for annexation to Carrboro. In annexation area B, some subdivision residents predate the JPA, while many others do not. Most lots on Rogers Road existed before the JPA.

Of course, probably most homesellers in the area have not gone out of their way to point out that they are in Carrboro's annexation area. On the other hand, it is not as though no one has ever heard of annexation before.

As I said, it is complex.

Yes Ruby, you said that out loud. How, umm, adorably "hip" of you.


Ruby, Tomorrow I'll come to the question of "fair share," which I briefly addressed on Sunday in response to Joe. I'm actually going to analyze a list of things, one-by-one (in addition to those below), that are supposedly unfairly shared right now, instead of just asserting what's fair and unfair.

Municipal services

Carrboro's documents on annexation, e.g.,
dangle the promise of direct municipal services that newly annexed areas would enjoy.

Of course, the main problem remains that Carrboro hasn't obtained consent. (I mean, really, of anywhere near a majority of the individuals involved, or even of neighborhood representatives free to choose non-annexation forever). Even if it thinks its services are superior to existing ones, it should be up to the residents involved to decide.

1. Police and fire protection. The neighborhoods concerned are mostly satisfied with County services. They are willing to pay much higher fire insurance premiums as a trade-off. That's their choice.
It is true that sometimes Carrboro or Chapel Hill services respond to calls elsewhere in Orange County. But they don't limit that to their planning zones, so they're just proposing to annex the neighborhoods next door, while still offering the same occasional supplementary service far beyond, even into other counties. That is generous and appropriate. I don't know whether Orange County makes a payment to Carrboro for these services as rendered; if not, I would argue that it should.

2. “Planning, inspections and engineering related services are currently provided.” Again, this is a situation where the local neighborhoods prefer County services. That's true especially in planning, where the service rendered includes directing staff to plan the annexation of neighborhoods that don't want it. That's a circular argument – get annexed and pay taxes so that we can pay for the planning for your annexation.

3. Public works. A straightforward Town-County choice. If anyone has an issue with OWASA services, partially funded and managed by the County, being used outside Town limits, that's a separate debate, or at least a very distinct overlapping one.

4. Parks and Recreation. This is Carrboro's strongest argument for the whole annexation. And still it is very weak. Carrboro has fantastic facilities and programming. But even more than occasional police and fire protection, these are used by many people from far beyond Chapel Hill or even Orange County. I meet different ones almost every time I take my son to Wilson Park. I don't think I've ever met someone there, or at other Parks-Rec. events, from the proposed annexation areas. But because those are the areas next door and the County surrendered them to Carrboro, then Carrboro proposes to annex a small fraction of those outsiders who use its facilities, in the name of all of them. And I mean here to exclude those from Chapel Hill, which perhaps provides more services to Carrboro than vice versa. Finally, of course, there is the very real possibility that these particular neighborhoods use these kinds of open services more in Chapel Hill than in Carrboro. If the facilities are going to remain open to all, then access to them does not make a good argument for annexing the few who happen to live right next door.

In summary, the neighborhoods proposed for annexation either prefer County services, or constitute only a very small fraction of the out-of-town users of services that the Town generously offers to all comers. (If the argument for annexation boils down to Parks & Recreation, there's a problem.)

Tomorrow: The other benefits of living in this urban area.

Not to be repetitious but....why does Carrboro want to annex these neighborhoods against their will? What is so unattractive to these neighborhoods about being part of Carrboro that they would actually request annexation by Chapel Hill?

Seriously? You really don't know why Carrboro wants to annex these areas against their will? M*O*N*E*Y.

As to using services and not paying for them--if they are in the city schools district then they pay the supplemental tax. They pay for their own garbage service--and if they have recycling they pay for it. If they have an emergency then the County Sherrif is responsible--if htey need an ambulance then it's SORS. Inspections are done by the county--I'm PRETTY SURE they pay county taxes out there. City doesn't own OWASA, so if they are on water and sewer they are paying OWASA for it. That leaves--the Library...and parks and rec. I'm pretty certain anyone in the county (even the hipsters over in Carrboro) can use the Library. Which leaves Parks and Jeff pointed out.

I don't blame 'em for wanting to be annexed by CH instead of rate per 100 is lower over here. But we AREN'T as "hip."


I'm pretty sure that growth aka money is the motivation Melanie, but I think the Alderman owe it to the people who are being 'taken' to say so. The technical process is clear for how the town grows, but I think our progressive community needs to ensure a social process as well, one that acknowledges the interests/desires of the residents who are being subsumed. Remember how upset so many people were about Amendment One and how it allowed people's land to be "taken." What's so different about forced annexation?

I've got my laptop, and I'm watching the Chapel Hill Town Council meeting, and so I'm going to try to say a few things as I watch.

New Speaker

8:44: Highlands resident claims that the values of the swastika "trump" those of democracy in Carrboro, thus proving that the town is safe for irresponsible hyperbole! A victory for free speech! I note no foaming at the mouth, either, despite my misgivings about his mental health.

New Speaker

8:47: "We are not the usual donut hole," Highlands resident claims. Mmmm, donuts. "The Highlands is closer physically and philosophically to the urban sections of Chapel Hill." Urban? Where is this urban area of which I hear so much? Methinks people don't know what urban is. Raises that pressing issue of what divides Carrboro and Chapel Hill philosophically. It's so obvious! I try to compose an essay on the question, but quickly fall asleep.

New Speaker

8:49: Aldermen are cowards. Nelson wants to seize Highlands now because of the timing of the elections, "years after hatching this abomination. I don't think Karl Rove could do a better job of denying people of their rights...this scheme speaks so ill....all of us are being tested by this issue, whether we are for government of the people, by the people, for the you and our neighbors can walk into tomorrow (etc etc.)"

Running count: The aldermen and the mayor are equivalents of Nazis and superior as Princes (and Princesses) of Darkness to Karl Rove. The Highlands are not a donut hole.

Council Members: Lots of talk about conversation. Ward: "If they want to talk about it, we're open to that." Let's dialogue, converse, etc. Council members sound like wallflowers at a junior high dance. Maybe, umm, if, in the case of, whether or not, umm, maybe we'll talk to them if they want to talk to us.

Attorney: Mr. Wet Blanket himself points out that if Carrboro wants to annex the Highlands, there isn't a single thing the Chapel Hill Town Council can do. A half hour down the drain.

Resolved: We'll keep talking. Yay!

Nothing. I was just pointing out the motivation. I agree that it would be nice if the Carrboro Alderpersons would be honest about their motivation.

I don't think anyone should be forcibly annexed. I don't think the donut holes that existed IN town should have been forcibly annexed--let alone people on the edges of town.


Please will one of you who is against
annexation in general or against annexation
into Carrboro please explain to us why you
bought your home in a region that was
clearly and publicly specified for future
annexation into Carrboro?


I'll admit to being stupid. It never even occurred to me that annexation possibilities might be something to check on. While I am not in the current annexation area, I have learned that my neighborhood is annexable.

I bought my house because this is what I could afford. I spent a year trying to find a house in Carrboro that was within my budget, a yard for a garden, larger than 500 sq ft, and not falling down. So I moved to the county where I have drive all the time. I have all the services I would have in town except entertainment thanks to the Park n Ride.

I love Carrboro--lived there for many years and fully expected to move back after grad school. I have no objection to being part of Carrboro; I admire Nelson for standing up for the artist and I loathe those who criticize him and/or the town on values. BUT I don't agree with the idea of annexation on principle. If my community decided they wanted to be annexed, would the town jump up and embrace us?

I have spoken with a family friend who lives in an area that may someday be annexed by Carrboro. She said she'd rather be in Chapel Hill because it sounds more sophisticated. It was as simple as that.

I was also chatting with a woman who was looking at a house in my neighborhood. She and family had always lived in Chapel Hill. Her dad told her that he couldn't conceive of any house in Carrboro being worth $200,000.

Perhaps some of these folks (and this is just a guess) have an idea about what Carrboro is and isn't--an outdated idea perhaps--and they feel like Chapel Hill carries more value for them and their house. ?? I'm not saying they are right, but, aside from the money, it's the only thing that makes sense.

I have seen those ads that say "city schools, county taxes" and wondered why that situation exists. Do these residents really pay no additional taxes (I mean in addition to the county taxes we all pay) that are applied to funding city schools? That's as good of an argument for annexation as I've heard.

Also, these neighborhoods do benefit today from the Carrboro police department. At the risk of disparaging someone's favorite city, if downtown Carrboro had the crime rate of, say, some Detroit neighborhoods, it would seriously effect the property values and quality of life in these annexation areas. We all benefit to some degree from good law enforcement.

Ed -- county residents of the CHCCS school district pay the same school taxes that town residents pay. To my knowledge, we do not use Carrboro police (we have the sheriff). Emergency and fire services are covered by the county but thanks to joint coverage services, we may be serviced by Carrboro or Chatham EMT if the county is tied up. The towns have similar joint services agreements I believe.

Ed, If downtown Carrboro had much worse crime rates, you'd actually see a flattening or decrease in the hot downtown residential real estate, in favor of houses a couple of miles away, such as the annexation area, which would be relatively more desirable to live in, not less. At least that's what happens in places with serious crime problems, like East Durham. Jeff

Ed, I think you touch on an excellent point.

The citizens of both Chapel Hill and Carrboro, through their elected officials, expend a great deal of money to establish those policies that have made this entire area the desirable place to live that it is. Through their tax dollars, our citizens have created two of the best downtowns in the State, developed one of the premier transportation services in the country, provided funds for community development and affordable housing, supported the Arts, etc. Together these things have created an exceptional quality of life for both those living in and around our two towns. It is impossible to parse out the impact of a particular service, because the total impact on quality of life is so much greater than the impact of each program individually. I contend that it is this greater impact that everyone who lives in or around Chapel Hill benefits from -- a sum paid for by those within the town limits and paid for only in part by those living outside the limits. I think it's short-sited to limit the measure of benefit just to those direct services that the newly incorporated areas would received after annexation.

I tell you, it was quite off-putting last night when the arguments extended to (I'll paraphrase): I don't want to be in Carrboro because of Mike Nelson; or the analogies to invasion, Rove and conspiracy.

Hold the phone. Jeff, you can't really believe that a seriously higher crime rate in downtown Carrboro would *increase* the value of homes in these targeted neighborhoods. They are far too close. To say nothing about the impact on quality of life. All of Durham County suffers from its crime problems, to one extent or another.

I hope this isn't part of your platform for a future campaign.

Mark K.,

I'm not sure I would have liked the way some people last night presented their position, either. But I hope that I would judge them based on the merits on their substantive case, not the question of whether or not I like them.

Later, I'll take up the issue of these amorphous, non-tangibles question which you are at least the fourth person to raise. Right now, I'll address some of your specific examples.

I don't see how anyone can believe that people choose to move to areas outside of town, based on the fact that CH-C provide free bus service for university students on Hwy 54, and for people in Colony Woods, etc. I can't even imagine a second- or third-degree association that would influence someone's housing decision.

It's also hard to imagine that people choose to live near but outside of CH-C because it makes developers cede some property and then, together with Orange County!, pays to administer the affordable housing.

You could put the arts with parks & recreation, and libraries if you're Chapel Hill (but less so Carrboro, at least for people living out of town). That's the best argument so far. But if that's the best argument, and the same things extend to people from far greater distances, that is a weak foundation for forced annexation.

I think you and others have the causes and effects mixed up about the amenities of living in this greater urban area, and that's what I'm going to address later today.

Mark--I wouldn't disagree that we county residents benefit from the arts and the commerce available in town. It is counter-intuitive to me that it is cheaper to live in the county than in town. Why isn't the economy of scale making high density town life more affordable than low density county life?

I completely agree with you that Carrboro could have made a much stronger case for annexation if they had gone beyond a surface level financial comparison of basic services. The message I read into the Alderman's presentation is that Carrboro needs money and in order to get it they need to "take" already developed property. If the message had been framed more positively (and directly), the residents might see benefit to being part of the town, and we would have a totally different discussion going on right now.

Ed, That last sentence wasn't very nice.

Having grown up in Durham County by Chapel Hill, and quite familiar with the businesses of real estate and real estate appraisal, I will tell you that I think many of Durham's real estate values have little to do with Durham's in-town crime rates, and a lot to do with outside impressions about a few low-performing schools. Outsiders then dismiss Durham schools as a whole. This keeps housing prices relatively lower, because even people without school kids understand that schools affect investment value in a home.

(Another problem is Durham government, which seems to be getting worse, at least in the lame-duck Commissioners' vindictive firing of the county manager.)

Even the best "suburban'" Durham schools include rougher cultures than CH-C. But that difference is in large part a function of the relative rarity of low-income housing in the CHCCS district (as opposed to fundamental differences in police protection).

All you need to do is look at the radical crime differences (and correlated real estate values) in very proximate neighborhoods in Manhattan to see that crime rates don't necessarily extend their effects for miles and miles.

It is well known in real estate that a new neighborhood right next to a comparable neighborhood depresses re-sales in the latter temporarily. Inversely, if downtown Carrboro suddenly became less desirable (you had the idea first), surrounding areas would absorb more of the demand. Your skepticism about this seems to be grounded in a belief that people in Highlands moved there because of the quality of life in downtown Carrboro, or in more interlinkage in quality of life than I observe. Instead, Highlanders moved there because of jobs, relative affordability, immediate neighbors, and the general amenities of the Triangle including CH-C.

All this is why I don't think the proposed annexation areas owe contributions to police protection in town.

More about schools & annexation & the rest in a bit.

Jeff, my apologies for not resisting the temptation to be a smartass. It's just that talking about the silver lining of higher crime did -- and still does -- seem a little perverse. Granted, I did take a cheap shot there.

Back at the ranch...

Though I live within the CH city limits, I live about four miles from downtown. Months can go by without my seeing a police car in my neighborhood. An officer I met remarked that they never come into my neighborhood. So it's not just my impression that we don't get much direct policing here. Thanks be to Allah we don't need it.

Yet, I feel that keeping the crime rate down throughout the town adds to the value of my home, and the value I place in living here. It certainly makes me feel better about going downtown. The real crime is how little we pay our police officers to do what they do for us. But it's all very see where I'm going with this?

People can come from anywhere in the world and enjoy Chapel Hill without paying a dime for this service. Which is, of course, great. But someone has to pay for it. Those who live here, who receive the value from these services as part of living here, have to step up and take responsibility.

What about ten years from now? What about twenty? It would be nice to think that Chapel Hill and Carrboro will never grow. In fact, I'd like to freeze things as they are, but of course none of us can. The towns will grow, because they are great places to live. And as they grow, these services and the areas they serve will need to be expanded. Looking at it in the long run, I don't see how we have a choice.

Thanks, Ed. I'm not a no-growther. We, at least the greater Triangle, will continue to grow rapidly. But if County residents think County services can handle their growth, I think that should be their choice. (More right below on how that can still be smart growth.)

Access to Urban Area Amenities

So what does Carrboro do when the proposed annexation residents say they simply don't want the municipal services that Carrboro offers?

Here's how Carrboro itself poses the Frequently-Asked-Question:
“Are annexation area residents using Carrboro services for which they should rightly be paying?”

Does Carrboro respond with a list of shocking freebies? Nope. It jumps right into vague assertions of Carrboro's prior graciousness to these neighborhoods: “The answer to the question is as much PHILOSOPHICAL as it is technical” (emphasis added).

The document goes on to discuss some of the municipal services that I discussed yesterday under “Use of municipal services.”

After mentioning parks and recreation, the document concludes: “More fundamentally, residents who live in close proximity to Carrboro and Chapel Hill do so because of the existence of these communities, and the local governments support and make viable these communities, including the school systems. So in a real sense, those who live just on the other side of the corporate limit lines benefit from the existence of these towns without contributing directly to the cost of them.”

That's it. Really! SCHOOLS. And Carrboro has nothing more to do with schools than sending its kids to them, and maybe a traffic light or two. If Carrboro has to lean on this argument, then it shouldn't push its credibility too hard.

Others here have made the argument that the towns maintain COMMERCIAL CENTERS. (I'll think about that next time I drive through a dozen uncoordinated traffic lights to get to a store in Durham with home furnishings that I can afford.) Right now, Carrboro cannot reasonably claim to offer nearby commercial centers to those neighborhoods, which are content to shop in Chapel Hill.

But even in the more theoretical sense, or in Chapel Hill's case, those commercial centers pay Town property taxes, which are funded by profits from customers . . . including of course those from beyond city limits. This argument for annexation because of commercial centers boggles my mind, because through profits-linked property taxes, the towns benefit disproportionately from County residents, as opposed to vice versa.

There are two grand debates behind all this. Carrboro's FAQs document discusses one of them: “If Carrboro did not expand its limits, ultimately it would find itself surrounded by vast suburban areas that would not participate financially in meeting the NEEDS OF THE TOTAL URBAN COMMUNITY” (emphasis added). This implies that town government is better than county or state government in providing “the needs of the total urban community.” The town goes on to make this claim explicit: “Through annexation, the tax base of the Town's entire urban service area will eventually become available to meet public service needs in an efficient, consistent, equitable, and cost-effective manner.”

O.K., there's some theoretical potential in that argument. HOWEVER, we already have counties, and if towns take their arguments to extreme (as is happening in Durham), then eventually the towns can just expand and annex the entire county. (I don't know if the towns have committed themselves not to do this; in the absence of any such accord, they would be able to do it as Durham has.) So the towns end up replacing the county. That's an either-or choice. The argument dissolves.

And the question of town services as preferable to county services in theory, comes back to town-versus-county services in practice, as I discussed yesterday. If the towns are so efficient, either their taxes should be lower per (inflated) valuation rather than higher, or they should be able to document vast sums of tangible freebies consumed by adjacent neighbors. They can't even do the latter for non-adjacent neighbors.

Some people might believe that town government is inherently better than county government, for example, because towns are more likely to pursue smart growth policies. People are free to believe that. But that doesn't mean that Orange County has no smart growth zoning, or that the City of Raleigh has not facilitated sprawl for decades. In each case the contrary is true.

The second and final grand claim is that adjacent out-of-town residents move right next to Chapel Hill and Carrboro because of the ATTRACTION OF MUNICIPAL PROGRAMS, and in order to avoid paying for them.

People decide where to live based on many things. But free bus service for other neighborhoods, the availability of a homeless shelter, even a few unique programs like Carrboro's Music Festival, those do not lead people to the conclusion, “I think I'll move to the neighborhood right next to Carrboro and Chapel Hill.” I myself support the programs listed in this paragraph.

But I didn't move to Carrboro for them. I moved here because it was on the Greensboro side of CH-C, where my wife works, and I worked in Greensboro at the time. We wanted to be closer to my family and to people like us than residence in Burlington would have allowed. Some folks live off Homestead and Rogers Roads because those aren't too far from I-40 for jobs in RTP or Raleigh.

People decide where to live based on jobs and other people. They also decide (say between jobs across the country from each other) based on cultural opportunities such as restaurants and theaters. But even those are correlated to the “other people,” because there have to be enough of them to make cultural opportunities economically viable. Here in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and our neighbors in Durham and Wake, we have a disproportionate number of jobs for graduate-educated, broadly experienced people. (We also have a lot of native flavor and diversity, which probably appeals to me more than some.) And especially in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, it is UNC that makes this so. I know from my graduate training in the Northeast that UNC and Duke are about the only places in the South where a lot of people would consider going, and they say that knowing nothing beyond the universities besides Jesse Helms.

Regarding the schools, our district is relatively small and very expensive in housing. It is probably the best peer group of public school students in the state by far, both by average and by the top ten percent average. Some local funding amplifies that attraction, but it is the snowball effect of the peer groups, and the resultant brand-name value of CHCCS, that make it so attractive, not something the town governments are doing.

Once you get these people here, and they stay and some of their children stay, they decide by their municipal representatives to establish the kinds of programs that Mark K. listed. It's not the programs themselves that bring the people. It's the people that bring the programs. Voluntary town support of those programs is not a reason to send the bill to other people who don't want it, just because they happen to live in a compact neighborhood right next door.

Budget Motivations

Today's topic is short and simple. As is usually the case with municipalities across the state, Carrboro wants to annex exactly those neighborhoods that would create net proceeds for the town.

Carrboro's documents disingenuously imply that the tax proceeds from annexation are not designed to help Carrboro's overall budget: “Would the excess tax dollars just go to fund a Carrboro budget shortfall? . . . No, the Town adopts a balanced budget each year meaning the projected cost of services balance anticipated revenues for serving the entire Town.”

But here's the math for 2007, the first projected full year of annexation:

$ 871,389 Town tax revenues
- 230,521 Town expenses for the area
= 640,868 net proceeds for the Town

Carrboro's case for itself, and its case against allegedly free-riding next-door neighborhoods, does not stand up in the face of evidence.

Come on Jeff, there's lots more to it than

Towns annex from the inside out, that is,
from their centers out to their pre-specified and well-advertised
urban growth boundaries. Neighborhoods
become eligble for annexation
as they achieve a sufficient
population density to fullfill
the requirements of state
zoning law, and as the town is able to
provide the services for the newly
annexed areas commensurate with
the services provided to the rest of the
town citizens.

Yes, some of the annexations have
net positive value to the town, but some have net negative value.
State law forbids involuntary satellite
annexations specifically to prohibit towns
from cherry picking, that is to
annex only the wealthier neighborhoods.



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