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A Case for Changing SC's Annexation Laws


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The Special Purpose District lobby in South Carolina seems to be fairly strong, so I doubt that will go anywhere. It would be a very good thing for South Carolina cities though.  

It would be nice for SC's cities to stop looking like swiss cheese.

SC Supreme Court rules against Awendaw annexation The S.C. Supreme Court ruled this week

So far, it looks like Columbia's push to get these donut holes annexed is working to a certain extent. The latest city council agenda has 17 requests for annexation from such residents. That's definitely a higher-than-normal number.

That's supposed to be out of 89 letters the city sent out. Here's the article.

http://www.thestate.com/747/story/1120080.html

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And here's the latest news relating to the state's archaic annexation laws:

The city of Rock Hill is countersuing more than 100 York County residents who have refused to agree to annexation and asked the 16th Circuit Court last month to decide whether they must.

The legal battle is the result of the city's plan to annex residential and commercial properties along S.C. 161 on Rock Hill northwest side. Annexation is part of the city's plan to guide development along the S.C. 161 corridor.

A group of county neighbors, led by Miller Pond residents, refused to sign annexation petitions, saying they don't want to be part of the city.

The city responded by threatening to cut off their water, an approach that county leaders and residents criticized for being "heavy-handed."

City officials say residents are legally obligated to annex based on an agreement signed by the neighborhood's developer over a decade ago. According to the agreement, the city offered to provide Miller Pond with water in exchange for annexation at a later date.

The agreement also allows the city to turn off the taps to those who refuse annexation, city officials maintain.

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Very interesting - besides the fact that I grew up a half mile south of the Miller Pond neighborhood & used to play there back when it was a cow pasture. I had no idea Old York Rd. was being developed, I'm honestly shocked that it is as developed as the article states it is. Regarding the article, I wouldn't be surprised they try to evade city water & use well water, since my neighborhood directly south had its own well. But it is absurd that anyone would consider it 'blackmail', when the developer signed an agreement that the city has the option to annex the subdivision. Not to mention most unincorporated RH residents routinely use city services, such as driving to city parks as there are none in the outlying subdivisions. Perhaps the state should at the very least provide cities with limited control over an extra-territorial jurisdiction which other southern states provide cities limited control. Then at least it would be fair warning to residents that they may very well be annexed in the future.

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Greenville is now wanting to try and be more proactive about annexation of residential areas: http://www.greenvilleonline.com/article/20101228/BUSINESS/312280024/Greenville-looks-to-grow-more-through-annexation

(You can copy the article title from greenvilleonline.com, paste into a Google search box, and see the entire article that way.)

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I have ranted about South Carolina's so-called "Special Purpose Districts" many times on this forum. They are an aberration, and should not exist. Their quasi-public nature makes them only "quasi-accountable" for their use of public funds. More importantly, their functions are those that should be incorporated into local government at either the City or County level. The existence of these SPD's are part of what make annexation in South Carolina so difficult. They basically provide the same services that a city should, but without any accountability.

 

For example: in Spartanburg County, you have districts for schools, fire, water, and sewer. In many cases, these over lap, creating hundreds of different tax rates within the county. In many cases, these districts have their own taxing authority too. While, they are technically overseen by the County and State governments, it is mostly a rubberstamping process. The water district commissioner that you elect often runs unopposed, and 99% of the people who vote for that person have no idea if he is even qualified for the job!

 

So that brings me to the latest situation in Spartanburg. The County Council has decided to allow fire districts to have a referendum to allow for a millage rate increase to fund their operations. Public Safety and emergency services in general should not be subject to hyper-local politics. This will ultimately result in areas that are poor having worse fire protection that those that can afford it, serving only to further exacerbate the disparity between wealthy and poor in Spartanburg. While I am all for local choice and control over taxes, I think that it should not be left up to individual tax districts to make this determination. All of Spartanburg County should have the same tax rate and equal fire protection services no matter what. Further, if they don't have sufficient funding, that is an issue that should be addressed at the County level.

 

This is a case study example of the a situation that can be applied to any special purpose district in the state.

 

http://www.goupstate.com/article/20140317/ARTICLES/140319760/1083/ARTICLES?Title=Spartanburg-County-Council-approves-plan-for-fire-district-tax-referendums&tc=ar

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Florence County is dealing with the fire districts and the disparity between them now.  One councilman wants to create a uniform mileage and equalize the equipment and stations.  That will be a godsend to small, tax-poor areas like Johnsonville, which pay very high tax rates for poorly equipped departments.  However, it would require a tax increase in a couple of wealthy areas. They are very much in the middle of the discussions and I don't know which way it will end up.    

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http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20150621/PC16/150629941/-x2018-doughnut-holes-x2019-can-slow-down-redevelopment

 

Excellent article on the doughnut hole issue. The sidebar comments by Paul Tinkler are very interesting.  The comments by Maurice Washington are race card BS in my opinion. I cannot recall one instance of an request for annexation being turned down by Charleston since the 1970's.  The Union Heights and Acabee areas were sought for annexation in the late '70's by Charleston, and those are about as low income as it gets.    

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Great article. The notion of creating an overlay district to solve the issue is the dumbest idea I've ever heard. Annex them into the city. They will have a hissy fit for a while, and then move on with life. If they don't like it they should move out to Colleton County. If you're in an urban area you receive urban services and you should be in a city. End of story. 

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This will probably go nowhere, but it least it has bipartisan support.  Some cities would benefit a lot more than others obviously. Charleston would be the biggest beneficiary.  The article says there are over 1,000 doughnut holes in Charleston city.  

Bill would allow Doughnut hole annexations without consent of property owners

 

 Municipalities across the state regularly run into the same problem: Doughnut holes.

These are the small pockets of land surrounded by the city but not governed by it.

Cities have found that those little spots of land can make for big headaches. A bipartisan House bill provides a solution.

It’s something the Legislature has been needing to do for years.

The bill would authorize a city to annex a doughnut hole if the area is 25 acres or smaller and has been surrounded by the city for at least 25 years. If part of the doughnut hole is bounded by a state line, military installation, state or national park or forest, lake or river, it is nevertheless considered a doughnut hole.

The city would have to notify the public at least 30 days before any council vote to annex, but residents would not vote for or against the change. 

 

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