In 1989, the North Carolina General Assembly enabled two or more cities to enter into binding agreements relating to the exercise of the annexation powers. The purpose of enabling such agreements was "to enhance orderly planning by such cities as well as residents and property owners in area adjacent to such cities." N.C.G.S. Section 160A-58.21. Such annexation agreements, which may be set in duration for a period not to exceed twenty years, will delineate the geographic areas that one or more of the city-parties may not annex. Therefore, by way of a simple example, agreeing City A promises not to annex unincorporated portions 2, 3, or 4 while agreeing City 1 promises not to annex unincorporated areas B, C, or D. The object is that City A would retain the option of annexing portions B, C, or D without threat of the same by City 1, and vice versa.
Once the annexation agreement becomes effective as between (or among, if more than two) the signatory municipalities, North Carolina law prohibits either local government (or any, if more than two) from adopting an annexation ordinance that violates the agreement. In fact, in the event of violation, N.C.G.S. Section 160A-58.27 permits a non-breaching government to petition the superior court for review within 30 days. The statutes are generally silent on third-party enforcement.
N.C.G.S. Section 160A-58.24 requires that each participating city to an annexation agreement adopt an ordinance to that effect. This past Monday night, October 4, the Board of Commissioners of the Town of Hope Mills voted 4-1 to approve a 20-year annexation agreement with the City of Fayetteville. The City of Fayetteville, for its part, approved the agreement in late August. The agreement divvies between the two municipalities a number of unincorporated subdivisions and areas.
Mike Thelen is an associate in Womble Carlyle's Real Estate and Real Estate Litigation practice groups. He regularly represents a wide variety of clients in land use issues, from local governments to businesses, in both state and federal venues throughout North Carolina.