Bill filed to annex Shaw Heights area into Fayetteville

2017-02-16 | The Fayetteville Observer

Feb. 16--RALEIGH -- Legislation to annex the impoverished Shaw Heights area into the Fayetteville city limits was filed Wednesday at the North Carolina General Assembly.

About 1,300 people live in the community, which includes the Shaw Heights and Julie Heights neighborhoods. The legislation would put about 631 acres into the Fayetteville city limit Dec. 31, 2018. The property is off Murchison Road on the north side of Fayetteville at Fort Bragg.

The land that would be annexed is a "doughnut hole" -- an unincorporated area completely surrounded by Fayetteville. It has been described as a mix of mobile homes, older homes, warehouses and vacant lots, and most of its residents are lower income.

If the annexation goes through, Fayetteville would have to provide police and fire protection and other city services, but would gain relatively little tax revenue.

Shaw Heights was skipped when Fayetteville undertook a vast and aggressive series of involuntary annexations in the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century that roughly doubled the city's population to more than 200,000 and boosted its tax base.

The Shaw Heights tax base is expected to change with the recent construction of the Outer Loop, which will eventually be known as Interstate 295. The highway has two interchanges convenient to Shaw Heights, raising the possibility that the community will be redeveloped into higher-value housing and commercial properties catering to nearby Fort Bragg.

State Rep. Elmer Floyd of Fayetteville, the lead sponsor on the annexation bill, said the Shaw Heights area is long overdue for city services and that it should comply with urban building standards instead of looser county standards if it develops.

But Fayetteville no longer can do involuntary annexations. This in part is because Fayetteville's previous intense annexation efforts led to much public anger. One of the city's annexations was called the "Big Bang Annexation" because it took in 27 square miles and 42,000 people all at once.

Because of that and other unpopular annexations elsewhere in North Carolina, the General Assembly in 2011 and 2012 passed laws that stopped cities and towns in this state from taking in property against the will of the property owners.

Now the city has to ask the legislature to impose the Shaw Heights annexation.

Democratic state Reps. Billy Richardson of Fayetteville and Marvin Lucas of Spring Lake sponsored the annexation bill with Floyd.

The bill does not have the signature of Republican Rep. John Szoka of Cumberland County, an upper-ranked legislator whose support may be needed to get it through the Republican-controlled legislature.

Szoka said on Wednesday he is neutral on the proposal, but he would consider supporting it if he receives resolutions requesting the legislation from the City Council and Cumberland County Board of Commissioners.

County commissioners' Chairman Glenn Adams said he doesn't believe the annexation will face opposition from commissioners. "I think the county wants to see something happen with Shaw Heights as much as the legislature and the city," he said.

Staff writer Steve DeVane contributed to this report.

Staff writer Paul Woolverton can be reached at woolvertonp@fayobserver.com and 910-261-4710.