LELAND — Leland is working to control rumors this week as its neighbors on the outskirts attempt to incorporate the surrounding area into a municipality.
In a post to its website, the town indicated misinformation is circulating that Leland would and could forcibly annex the Winnabow community, located in unincorporated Brunswick County along U.S. 17.
“This misinformation is being used to fuel fears of residents in the area to inappropriately influence them to sign a petition for the incorporation of Winnabow,” the town stated.
Through drive-thru signing events and community meetings at the volunteer fire department, residents in the Winnabow area have been collecting signatures for a petition to incorporate as a town. The proposed boundaries consist of more than 103,000 acres, surrounding Leland and spanning from the northern county line to Boiling Spring Lakes and Bolivia.
The group argues that, by becoming an official town, residents will have more say in preserving the “integrity and heritage” of the area and managing its growth, according to its Facebook page. Some are fearful the rapidly expanding Town of Leland will overtake it if not.
For the N.C. General Assembly to consider an incorporation proposal, a petition must receive signatures from at least 15% of registered voters in the area.
Organizer Jennifer Gates said the petition has been delivered to the Brunswick County Board of Elections to certify the signatures. She said they will not know how many are voters are in the proposed town until they hear back, within the next 15 days.
About a decade ago, the General Assembly reformed the laws in North Carolina, requiring a referendum vote for a city to initiate annexation. Otherwise, annexations must be voluntary, with a petition from the property owners.
The Leland town limits would also need to be adjacent or relatively close to the properties for annexation to take place. Per state law, the nearest point must be within three miles from the boundaries of the annexing city.
“The area in and around Winnabow does not meet the geographic requirements necessary to even consider or begin a Town of Leland initiated annexation,” according to Leland’s statement.
Leland is actively working to expand, inching closer to the area historically known as Winnabow. The town’s recently released growth plan, Leland 2045, includes a future land use map that extends along US-74 and 87, east to Brunswick River, Cape Fear River and Eagles Island, and down to Town Creek; that includes the proposed limits of the “Town of Winnabow.”
The future land use map pinpoints ideal conservation areas and is expected to help locate new parks and schools. It also pinpoints potential neighborhood nodes that, if planned adequately and along with transportation routes, could one day be walkable centers with residences and a mix of uses.
“Providing future policies for these areas may encourage landowners to consider annexation,” according to Leland 2045.
Through community engagement events, the town determined residents preferred this type of nodal growth over continuing its current development patterns outward or restricting growth outside of the town’s current boundaries and maximizing it within the core.
Annexation would require the future tenants or residents of these areas to contribute to the tax base. At this time, developers could build in the Winnabow area with the permission of the Brunswick County government. Developers may annex the land for the benefits and services the town can provide, such as water and sewer. The town is also obligated to extend services it operates within corporate limits, like trash collection and fire protection.
Leland has expanded largely south and west over the past decade, requiring the town to expand its infrastructure. It has several annexations just this week on its council agenda.
“As our region continues to grow, the Town of Leland is encouraged that property owners and developers see value in being part of the Town and in the many services and benefits provided to its residents,” according to the website post.
On Thursday night, the town council will begin the annexation process for five town-owned properties, more than 120 acres in total. Four of the five properties were previously acquired by the N.C. Department of Transportation for projects and were transferred to the town in November. At this time, the town intends to preserve the properties as passive open space.
Council will also likely approve an investigation into the voluntary annexation of 32 acres from the Seabrooke Development, and the town has scheduled two public hearings to extend the town limits with 10 acres off Old Town Creek Road and another 10 acres off Pinecliff Drive, both of which are owned by Stanley Martin Homes.
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