What is Annexation?
Annexation is the systematic expansion of a city's corporate boundaries into unincorporated (not already part of a local governmental jurisdiction) areas, and a corresponding extension of city services to the newly-annexed areas. North Carolina state statutes allow cities to undertaken annexation as long as certain development characteristics exist within the areas considered for annexation. In 1959, the North Carolina State Legislature revised the statute that governs how cities may annex adjacent areas. The law stipulates that areas can't be annexed unless they meet the following two requirements:
· certain characteristics of urbanization must exist, and
· the annexing city is prepared to provide the areas to be annexed with all the facilities and services that are provided within the existing city limits.
If these two requirements are met, in addition to other less significant requirements, the cities are authorized to annex as long as specific procedures are followed.
In Charlotte, annexation is considered to be a continual process. On a biennial basis (every other year), numerous areas adjacent to the City of Charlotte are evaluated for possible annexation under the requirements of State statute. (The City of Charlotte has a policy of annexing with an effective date of June 30th of every odd-numbered year.)
For areas eligible under the statutes, plans are developed to provide all required municipal services and an estimate is made of the cost of providing such services. This helps determine the financial feasibility of annexing eligible areas.
Why does the City of Charlotte Annex?
Annexation has enabled Charlotte and surrounding urban areas to avoid many problems other cities and metropolitan areas have experienced. If the City did not expand its limits, ultimately it would find itself surrounded by vast suburban areas that would not participate financially in meeting the needs of the total urban community. Meanwhile, Charlotte's residents and property owners would find themselves disproportionately responsible for funding the local service needs of the community.
Through annexation, the tax base of the entire urban area is available to meet the needs of the urban area. Additionally, the City of Charlotte can offer public services in an efficient, consistent, equitable, and cost-effective manner.
Many residents and property owners of newly annexed areas benefit from having improved fire protection, municipal traffic management and street maintenance, street lights, availability of basic water and sewer facilities, solid waste (garbage) collection, and other standard municipal services which the City of Charlotte provides.
How Does an Area Qualify for Annexation?
In order to qualify for annexation, an area must meet several specific requirements set forth in the State statutes.
First: an area must be adjacent to Charlotte's city limits, and at least one-eighth of the external boundary of the area must coincide with Charlotte's boundary, and · the area can't already be within the boundary of an incorporated municipality.
Second, in order for an area to qualify for annexation, it must have certain urban development characteristics. An area qualifies if it meets one or more of several development standards, summarized below:
(1) the area has a population of at least 2.3 persons per acre; or
(2) the area has a population of one person per acre, and is subdivided into parcels such that at least 60% of the total acreage consists of lots three acres or less in size and such that at least 65% of the total number of lots are one acre or less in size; or
(3) the area is developed so that at least 60% of the total number of lots are used for residential, commercial, industrial, institutional or governmental purposes; of the total residential and undeveloped acreage more than 60% consists of lots and tracts three acres or less in size; or
(4) the area is developed such that all lots in the area are used for commercial, industrial, governmental, or institutional purposes.
In general, the requirements are designed to discourage or prevent cities from annexing large tracts of vacant or rural land before they are developed to the stated standards. Under certain conditions, vacant land may be annexed if it is in conjunction with annexation of land meeting the standards above.
Annexation may include areas not developed for urban purposes but which constitute "necessary land connections" between the City and areas which do qualify, or between two areas which qualify. However, these areas can't exceed 25% of the total area to be annexed.
What are the Annexation Procedural Requirements?
Before an area can be annexed, the City of Charlotte must carefully measure and document the land characteristics of a candidate annexation area, and document how it meets the annexation standards.
Staff at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department are responsible for collection of data concerning land development and population growth which helps determine qualifying annexation areas in accordance with the four development standards listed above. The Planning Department staff determines which areas qualify for annexation in accordance with the State statutory requirements.
· The City must also indicate how it intends to serve the area with public services such that these services will be provided at substantially the same levels as those within the present corporate limits.
· On the date of annexation, the City must begin to provide fire protection, garbage collection, and street maintenance services to the area.
· The City must also provide extension of major trunk water mains and sewer lines into the annexation areas so that property owners may obtain water and sewer service within two years of the effective date of annexation.
· The City must also indicate how it intends to finance the extension of the above services.
A service report is developed for each annexation area, detailing the public service information, and providing information on the characteristics of the area qualifying it for annexation. These reports are available for review at the Planning Department and in the City Clerk's Office.
How frequently does the City of Charlotte annex property?
The process described above is undertaken every two years. The City follows a schedule with an annexation effective date of June 30th of odd-numbered years (2005, 2007, etc.).
Can the City of Charlotte annex an area already in one of the towns (Huntersville, Mint Hill, etc.)?
Charlotte cannot annex an area already incorporated into another local municipality. Charlotte and the four towns in Mecklenburg County with which Charlotte shares boundaries (Mint Hill, Matthews, Pineville, and Huntersville) have mutually agreed upon boundaries - called "spheres of influence" - beyond which each entity has agreed not to annex. One municipality cannot annex property within another's sphere of influence. Therefore, no unincorporated area of Mecklenburg County is eligible to be annexed by more than one Mecklenburg municipality. In addition, the City of Charlotte has annexation agreements with the towns of Weddington, Stallings, Marvin, Concord, Midland, and Harrisburg (all outside of Mecklenburg County) under which the City has agreed not to annex property in Union and Cabarrus Counties (where these towns are located). Those municipalities have also agreed not to annex property in Mecklenburg County within Charlotte's sphere of influence.
What are the benefits of annexation to property owners and homeowners within annexation areas?
Beginning on the effective annexation date, property owners in annexation areas become eligible to receive City services, such as fire protection, trash collection, and street maintenance. The City of Charlotte already provides police protection services in annexation areas through the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities Department (CMUD), a City department, already provides water and sewer services throughout many areas of Mecklenburg County and uses the same rates and service policies for both City and non-City customers. If water and sewer services aren't yet available in annexation areas, the City will install water and/or sewer lines within two years of the date the annexation becomes effective.
My property taxes are paid by the bank that holds the mortgage to my home. Will the City notify the bank or mortgage holder that the property has been annexed into the City of Charlotte?
No direct notification will be made to the bank or mortgage holder of the newly annexed property. However, the tax bills sent out early in September (many of which are sent to banks) will reflect the combined City and County taxes for the current fiscal year, and since the Tax Collector's Office is a combined City/County agency, the bank will make tax payments to the same place after annexation.
How do property taxes work in conjunction with annexation?
To illustrate, property tax bills that were sent out in September 2005 were for fiscal year (FY) 2006 (July 1, 2005 through June 30, 2006). This bill reflects the property tax rate established for FY 2006 by Charlotte City Council (for City taxes) and Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners (for County taxes) in June 2005. Property tax bills for properties annexed on June 30, 2005 reflect the combined City and County tax rates.
The fiscal year 2006 combined (City and County) tax rate for City properties was approximately $1.26 per $100 of assessed valuation. The County tax rate for unincorporated areas in fiscal year 2005 was about $1.01, so properties annexed on June 30, 2005 experienced about a 24 percent increase in property taxes.
The City tax rate for FY 2008 (for the period from July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2008) is $.4586 per $100 of property valuation.
How can I determine whether my property is potentially-eligible to be annexed by the City in 2009 (the next annexation cycle)?
The areas of Mecklenburg County within Charlotte's "sphere of influence" that have the greatest potential for annexation (based upon high levels of development and rapid urbanization) will be surveyed by Planning staff to determine annexation eligibility, during Spring, 2008. From that survey work, areas that qualify in accordance with the state annexation statutes for annexation in 2009 will be identified and shared with City Council (accompanied by written plans for extending City services into qualifying areas) in July, 2008, after which property owners in qualifying areas will be provided written notification and information by mail about the annexation process and services to be extended upon annexation.
Can a property owner make a request for the City of Charlotte to annex his or her property without first having it located within an area that qualifies for annexation?
The State annexation statutes allow for property owners to petition for "voluntary annexations" under specific circumstances. For instance, the property must be contiguous to the current City limits, or it must be in closer proximity to City boundaries than to other nearby incorporated municipalities.
More specifically, the property must also fall within Charlotte's Extraterritorial Jurisdiction and according to Charlotte's voluntary annexation policies, three other requirements must be met:
- annexation of the property cannot create an unincorporated area entirely surrounded by areas incorporated within the City of Charlotte.
- annexation cannot negatively affect City services or budgets, and
- annexation cannot create a situation that makes it more difficult to undertake subsequent annexation in the area
Petitions for voluntary annexations are made through the City Clerk's office. Forms and instructions can be viewed at http://www.charmeck.org/Departments/City+Clerk/
A pre-application meeting between the property owner and City staff is generally recommended, in order for staff to fully explain the process and preliminarily assess whether the potential petition will adhere to applicable State statutes and City policies.
Updated: August, 2007