Tryon to field questions on annexation

Published 8:05 am Tuesday, April 1, 2008

An informational meeting, one of a few meetings required as part of the annexation process, will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Tryon Elementary School Auditorium.

By statute, both town residents and residents of the proposed annexation area will be allowed to ask questions and receive answers from town officials.

Tryon has proposed an involuntary annexation of most of Gillette Woods, the Tryon Country Club area and parts of the Harmon Field and Hwy. 108 areas of Tryon Township.

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Tryon Town Council recently abandoned a previous involuntary annexation plan that would have taken in much of Lynn and a few of the currently proposed areas to be annexed.

Citizens Against Forced Annexation (CAFA), a citizens group formed to oppose the town&squo;s previous annexation plan, filed a lawsuit against the town. After spending about $91,000&bsp; related to the lawsuit, the town decided to abandon the annexation plan. Town officials said some mistakes were found in the annexation plan that may have made it more difficult to defend in court, and they decided it was best to drop the plan and start over with a new one.

The informational meeting for the previous annexation, held in early spring of 2007, drew much criticism from residents against that plan, mostly because council members and the mayor did not respond to questions or speak about the plan.

Around 200 people attended last year&squo;s meeting. At that time CAFA had threatened a lawsuit against the town&squo;s annexation plan, and the town attorney advised town leaders to refrain from discussing the plan.

Tomorrow night&squo;s information meeting could be different since some council members have been speaking openly about the plan so far, namely newly elected council member Austin Chapman, who campaigned against forced annexation. He has been the only one to vote against anything to do with the current plan, most recently the town&squo;s annexation report.

The annexation report showed that&bsp; Tryon could have a net gain of approximately $167,000 annually in tax revenue from the annexation, which is considerably more than it would have obtained from the previous annexation. That annexation, which included much of the Lynn area, would have netted the town $32,000 per year, according to estimates.

Adding tax revenue is the principal purpose behind the annexation. The town has said costs for providing services have continued to rise steadily. But the town&squo;s tax base has been stagnant for quite some time since Tryon has seen little residential or commercial growth.

If the town does not expand its tax base through annexation, officials say it inevitably would have to raise taxes to keep up with rising costs. Town officials say they have cut costs substantially over the past several years, and there is little left to save without making major cuts to services.

Tryon Town Manager Alan Peoples has said he does not like the option of raising taxes because it could further limit the town&squo;s growth. Businesses and residents could choose to go elsewhere to avoid the higher taxes, which would only worsen Tryon&squo;s financial situation.

Town officials have said that the current proposed area of annexation was researched at the same time it came up with the previous annexation area.

&bsp;Town officials said they did not pursue the current area then because they were unaware that&bsp; low pressure pump systems were available to serve the steeper topographical areas throughout much of Gillette Woods. The town had concluded it was not economically feasible to provide service to that area.

Town officials now say the low pressure systems, which would serve
about 80 percent of the new area&squo;s residences, provide a cost-effective solution for extending sewer service to the Gillette Woods area.

The new annexation area consists of 638 acres with an estimated 406 residents, so the town&squo;s population would grow from the current 1,775 to 2,181, an increase of about 23 percent.

The town would grow in land mass by almost one square mile. The area proposed to be annexed has real property value for 291 parcels of $44 million.

The town is proposing to add one police officer,&bsp; two operators in the street department and a backhoe among other smaller increases to service the area. The annual debt service on the sewer extension project is estimated at $122,688 over 40 years.

The next meeting concerning annexation will be the public hearing, during which current town residents and those in the proposed annexation area can give their opinions of the plan to council. That meeting is scheduled for April 16. The town could possibly adopt the annexation by the end of April.