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DONE DEAL

SoVaNow.com / November 27, 2013
A brief hearing Thursday before a three-judge panel in Mecklenburg County Circuit Court officially brought to an end the decade-long annexation battle waged by the town of Clarksville against Mecklenburg County.

The annexation becomes effective at midnight on Dec. 31.

Chief Judge William Alexander, along with Judges Pamela Baskerville and Michael Gamble conferred for less than 15 minutes before accepting the agreed-upon plan for annexation entered into by the town and county last month.

The agreement gives Clarksville nearly 670 acres of unincorporated territory, including the former site of Burlington Industries and the commercial strip that runs along Virginia Avenue from College Street to the U.S. 58 bypass.

For new town residents not already on Clarksville’s public water and sewer systems, the town must offer these services to annexed properties within a reasonable time, and at the town’s expense, should a property’s existing well or septic system fail. The property owner will have to pay the normal connection charges, unless the connection takes place within one year of the settlement agreement.

The town and county, as part of the settlement approved by the court, entered into two revenue sharing agreements: one involving Kinderton Technology Park, the other involving Lakeside Commerce Park.

Clarksville will receive 25 percent of the net revenue from businesses that locate in the Lakeside Commerce Park, and 30 percent of the net revenues from business that locate in Kinderton Technology Park.

This part of the agreement gives Clarksville the added incentive to help market the sites, said Clarksville’s attorney, James Cornwell of the Richmond-based law firm of Sands Anderson.

Since the town will see an immediate net gain in revenue of between $50,000 and $100,000, according to Mecklenburg County’s attorney Greg Haley, there is incentive on the part of the town to pursue more downtown redevelopment. Haley added that Mecklenburg County agreed to the proposed annexation in order to focus on mutual interests between the two areas while also protecting the county’s interests.

For newly annexed residents, Haley said lower water and sewer bills should offset any increase they might see in property taxes.

Testifying before the three-judge panel, Clarksville Mayor Kevin Allgood said he saw four major benefits to the town and its residents that springs from the annexation agreement: immediate increased revenue, developable property that provides for future growth, control of a prime industrial site (the Burlington site) and extending local police and fire protection services.

In his testimony, Town Manager Jeff Jones said he agreed with Allgood’s assessment and added that “now the hard work begins” — a reference to the work of updating tax records and town maps, applying town zoning to the newly annexed property, revising electoral precincts and holding new elections for town council and mayor.

Jones also said Clarksville is in the process of updating its comprehensive and land use plans as well as starting work on an economic development revitalization plan.

“This is an historic time for Clarksville,” said Jones. “It is an opportunity to move to the next phase of its development, and I hope to make that transition as seamless as possible for our new residents.”

Before rendering their decision, Judge Baskerville complimented both parties on the resolution. She praised county officials for their fiscal management and use of regional agreements to promote the area. “I often practiced law in this Courthouse, and I appreciate your renovation. It is both functional and beautiful and you paid for the project with cash.”

With that said, Judge Alexander ruled, “We unanimously find the agreed upon annexation to be in the best interests of the town, the count and the state.”

After the hearing, Dr. Charles Lee, who spearheaded the push to end the annexation battle as interim town manager for Clarksville, said, “I think this settlement agreement is in the best interest of the town and the county. For example the new tourism initiative is already working, revenue sharing from Kinderton promises more incentive to aggressively participate in recruiting industry.”

Clarksville Council member Bill Nunn called it a positive decision: “This has been a long journey. Now we will continue to strive for the good of the citizens of Clarksville and the county.”

Haley, the county’s lawyer, added, “We are very pleased with the outcome proceedings and the kind comments of the judges about our buildings.”

Clarksville’s attempt to annex 3,800 acres of land began 10 years ago. By the time the town filed a contested petition for annexation in March of 2012, it had sliced the number of acres it was seeking to annex to slightly more than 800. After a mediation hearing, presided over by Dr. Roger Richman, professor emeritus of urban studies and public administration at Old Dominion University, the town and county were able to resolve their differences.

The land subject to annexation was reduced again to slightly more than 700 acres. The parties finally agreed to annex only 670 acres after the Council on Local Government, which initially heard the petition, recommended the adjustment.

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