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Burlington OKs annexation deal with Graham to facilitate development of new subdivision

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Burlington’s city council has signed off on a proposed annexation agreement with Graham that would give Burlington the ability to serve, and potentially take in, some territory to the southeast of its municipal limits that’s currently within Graham’s sphere of influence.

The members of Burlington’s city council voted 5-to-0 in favor of this compact on Tuesday in order to give Burlington annexation rights over a 91-acre swath of land at 2318 Race Track Road that presently straddles the extraterritorial jurisdictions of both Graham and Burlington.

Burlington’s city engineer Todd Lambert attributed the inspiration for this proposed agreement to a request from Raleigh-based Glenwood Homes, which apparently wants to develop this property but has encountered some difficulties due to its split jurisdiction. Among other things, the property lacks access to public water and sewer, which Graham apparently isn’t in a position to provide and which Burlington won’t extend without the right to annex the land.

“The only way that we could annex the property and apply city zoning throughout…is through this annexation agreement with the city of Graham,” Lambert went on to explain before the council reached its decision on Tuesday. “Current annexation laws would not allow us to annex this without the agreement because it is, as the crow flies, closer to Graham’s corporate limits than the city of Burlington. But the city of Graham does not have the ability or the location of their utilities to serve this property.”

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[Story continues below annexation map.]

Lambert added that, in order to accommodate this property, staff members in both municipalities have proposed to adjust the areas where Burlington and Graham have dibs on annexation. To this end, the two staffs have recommended an annexation line of agreement that runs from Monroe Holt Road and the Great Alamance Creek and which would place the property that Glenwood Homes wants to develop squarely within Burlington’s domain.

In addition to the land that the Raleigh developer has in its sights, the proposed line of agreement would also give Burlington annexation rights over a number of other parcels that lie east of Race Track Road and NC 49. These parcels include property that belongs to Anne Kelly, a resident of Race Track Road, who approached the council before Tuesday’s vote with some concerns about the agreement’s ramifications.

Property owner Anne Kelly and city engineer Todd Lambert

During a state-mandated public hearing, Kelly asked a series of exasperated questions as she struggled to make sense of what the two municipalities had in store for her property.

“Does it include my property or not?” she inquired of Burlington’s leaders, “and is this a ‘spot’ annexation?”

Lambert, for his part, tried to reassure Kelly that the proposed agreement won’t affect her unless she decides to develop her property and needs public utilities to follow through on her plans.

“This agreement just defines the ability of the city of Graham and the city of Burlington to annex property in the future,” he explained. “So, this does not annex any property directly. It only defines who would serve properties and who would annex properties should they want to be developed.”

Burlington’s city engineer added that, should Kelly decide to develop her land, and found it necessary to seek public water and sewer, she would need to approach the city of Burlington under the terms of the compact. He also stressed that the city would never try to absorb Kelly’s land without her consent due to state level restrictions on forced annexation.

This final admission drew a palpable sense of relief from the anxious property owner.

“I just don’t want to pay city taxes,” she said before she dropped her objections.

The council’s subsequent 5-to-0 vote to approve this agreement included Burlington councilman Bob Ward, who also serves as one of Graham’s city attorneys. Ward had previously acknowledged his dual role in February before the council scheduled the public hearing on the annexation agreement. Ward said at the time that, in order to avoid a potential conflict of interest, he would delegate any work on the agreement to Graham’s other city attorney J. Bryan Coleman and he went on to join the rest of Burlington’s city council in approving the hearing’s proposed date.

Although Ward didn’t reiterate any of this during Tuesday’s council meeting, Burlington’s own city attorney David Huffman told The Alamance News that he deemed the councilman’s previous disclosure of his double role to have been sufficient.

The proposed annexation agreement is now in the hands of Graham’s city council, which is scheduled to hold its own public hearing on the agreement at its next meeting on March 12.

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