Tryon annexation: 3 yrs., $266k later

Published 3:37 pm Friday, December 18, 2009

Some Tryon officials may be saying, “Wow, $266,000 and three years of scrutiny for nothing” following the new town councils decision Tuesday to rescind the annexation.
Some annexation opponents may be saying, “Its a $266,000 issue the town should have never been a part of to start with.”
Tryons involuntary annexation of approximately 600 acres and 400 residents in the Gillette Woods, Country Club Road and Hwy. 108 areas and its previous attempt to involuntarily annex 610 acres and 420 residents in mainly the Lynn area created one of the most divisive and heated battles probably in the towns history.
Tryons annexation efforts spanned about 3 years and cost the town $266,607, according to town records. The town spent over the course of both annexations $266,607 including $96,021 this fiscal year. Town officials have said the brunt of the towns expenses for the lawsuit were already over, with between $5,000 and $10,000 left to pay. The total costs included surveying, paying IPDC and Benchmark for the report work, attorney fees, engineering fees and rentals of the Tryon Fine Arts Center and public notice advertising (see total expenses on p. 7).
The effort, made in an attempt to
Councilman Roy Miller was the sole vote against rescinding the annexation. Mayor Alan Peoples also has supported the annexation but didn’t vote Tuesday since there was no tie to break.
The idea of annexation was put into motion by the former town council, consisting of current Mayor Peoples and current councilmen Miller and Chapman, who cast the sole vote against approving the annexation, as well as Dennis Durham and Jim Scott, who were defeated in this Novembers election. In the summer of 2006, town officials began working on the first annexation, but did not discuss their plans publicly at first. In October, 2006, a group of about 200 residents met after hearing rumors and this is when CAFA was formed to fight the towns efforts against involuntary annexation. Every meeting the town held regarding the first annexation drew crowds of people against the annexation and the town held most of its public meetings at the Tryon Fine Arts Center to accommodate the crowds. Signs were a popular item to bring to the meetings and many petitioned outside. CAFA began raising money early and warned it planned to sue.
The town officially approved the first annexation on June 30, 2007. Shortly after, in August of that year, CAFA filed a lawsuit with 90 signatures.
Tryon then unexpectedly rescinded the first annexation in January, 2008 and during the same meeting presented plans to involuntarily annex other areas and later chose the area of Gillette Woods, Country Club Road, Harmon Field and Hwy. 108 areas of its township. Reasons for rescinding the first annexation were given by the towns attorney specifically hired for annexation, Anthony Fox, with Parker, Poe, Adams & Bernstein, LLP, out of Charlotte. Fox said at the time that the town had concluded that there existed “some questions” about whether the Lynn area would satisfy annexation requirements by the state and whether the town should rely on Isothermal Planning and Development Commission (IPDC), who conducted the towns first annexation report and surveys.
The town had hired Benchmark CMR Services prior to rescinding the first annexation to begin work on the second area. The second annexation of the Gillette Woods area was approved by town council on April 29, 2008, with councilman Austin Chapman being the only vote against.
CAFA filed another lawsuit against the towns second annexation in June, 2008, with 172 petitioners, or approximately 40 percent of the residents in the area to be annexed.
A settlement to the latest lawsuit was proposed in July, 2009. The settlement on the table was an agreement that CAFA would drop the lawsuit and not sue in the future if the town would agree to wait until Jan.1, 2013 to make the annexation effective. Neither party could agree to the terms and the case was set to go back to trial. The most recent schedule was for the lawsuit to be heard in February, 2010.bring in more revenue to an otherwise financially sinking town, divided the town and led to protracted legal battles. The first annexation that included the Lynn area was rescinded in January, 2008 after a lawsuit by Citizens Against Forced Annexation (CAFA), a resident group formed specifically against Tryons efforts. The second attempt, which included the Gillette Woods area, was rescinded Tuesday night after a new majority on council was sworn into office. Councilman Austin Chapman has been against the towns annexation effort since he ran for office in 2007 and he was joined in the vote Tuesday by newly elected Wim Woody, who has also been against annexation, and Doug Arbogast, who until recently hadn’t expressed an opinion regarding annexation. Arbogast did respond shortly after winning the election saying without knowing the history, hed have to vote in favor of the annexation. Later he called for input from residents, and after just one week, Arbogast announced publicly that he is against annexation and hoped to end it on his first night in office.

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