NCLM Southern City, Volume 72, Issue 3, 2022

NCLM.ORG 33 It has been roughly a decade since the North Carolina General Assembly ended involuntary annexation in the state. In the years since, cities have continued to grow, largely through voluntary annexation that typically involves developers beginning new development seeking access to city water and sewer service and agreeing to be pulled into a municipalities’ corporate boundaries in exchange for that service. The arrangements have been good for both sides. Developers enhance the value of their property with city utilities and other services; cities keep pace with their urban footprint and are able to maintain service levels by growing their property tax base. And orderly and planned growth has been the result. But what if that had not been the case? Over the last decade, legislators have filed local bills—sometimes approved, sometimes not—that have de-annexed areas over the objections of local officials. Other local bills have waded into local disputes over the control of water and sewer service. And on the land-use planning front, Boone saw its extraterritorial jurisdiction eliminated in 2014. This past legislative session again saw local bills filed calling for de-annexations, and affecting ETJ, local zoning and provision of water and sewer service. Bills affecting the City of Lexington and the Town of Leland were approved. Although the circumstances in each of these cases were unique, the legislative committee discussions as the bills were considered included comments less than sympathetic to the broader use of city-owned utilities as inducements to bring areas into municipal boundaries. Again, though, what if cities had been restricted from growing their urban footprint in the way that North Carolina cities have done over the last decade? It is not a difficult question to answer. All you need to do is look to cities in the Northeast and Upper Midwest where that has occurred. Detroit, Cincinnati, and St. Louis are just a few examples of cities that either through state and local policy, geography, or a combination of both became landlocked and whose corporate boundaries no longer reflect their true urban footprint. The major cities of Ohio are especially instructive, simply due to the contrast between Cincinnati and Cleveland, and Columbus, which today is the state’s largest and fastest growing city, with a population of about 918,000. continues on page 34 Keeping the Pace With the Urban Footprint