North Carolina has long been viewed by those around the country as having very beneficial state municipal annexation laws. Many other states have envied North Carolina’s provisions for “satellite” annexation (a means for bringing areas at a distance from existing municipal boundaries within municipal jurisdiction based on voluntary petitions) and “involuntary annexation” (a means for municipalities to initiate steps to bring contiguous areas within municipal boundaries based on their “urban character” notwithstanding property owners’ disinclination to be annexed).
In the past few years, North Carolina has witnessed significant “annexation wars,” by which property owners have tried to encourage the state General Assembly to gut the state’s involuntary annexation laws and sharply limit the viability of “forced” municipal annexation. During the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions, private parties opposed to prior involuntary annexation laws prevailed in persuading the state’s General Assembly to significantly curb the ability of the state’s municipalities to annex contiguous areas without the agreement of affected property owners, notwithstanding efforts by the state’s municipalities to oppose such changes.
This Article initially proposes an approach to understanding municipal annexation that is rooted in an appreciation for local government ecology (including the powers and relationships of counties, municipalities, special districts, and homeowners associations), rather than simply treating annexation as a matter of municipal boundary change. The Article then explicates the historical understandings of the law of municipal annexation in North Carolina, and pressure points for change over the last decade.