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Sylva strikes down annexation request

Aaron Littlefield addresses the Sylva town board Sept. 12. Holly Kays photo Aaron Littlefield addresses the Sylva town board Sept. 12. Holly Kays photo

Sylva’s town board voted unanimously Sept. 12 to deny a petition from Dillardtown resident Aaron Littlefield to have his property voluntarily annexed into town limits. 

Littlefield first approached the board on July 11, which then approved an order to investigate his annexation petition Aug. 8. Littlefield, who lives on Hilltop Drive with his wife, said that only three lots separate their home from town limits and that they live just half a mile from the Bogart’s intersection on N.C. 107. As such, town decisions impact them significantly, and they’d like to be able to vote. 

“My wife and I are willing to pay over $1,000 a year in taxes just to have the right to vote in local elections,” he said Aug. 8. “So it’s almost like a poll tax for us to have a say in the local proceedings, but it’s that important to me and it’s that important to my wife.”

Littlefield wanted a satellite annexation, meaning that the town would annex his property but not that of the neighbors who separate him from town limits. 

During a public hearing held prior to the board’s Sept. 12 vote, four people spoke against the annexation, with Littlefield the only voice in favor.

“I don’t see any use in annexation of any part of Dillardtown,” said resident Gary Wells. “Everybody I speak to is against it. We don’t need trash pickup and we don’t need a police officer up there. We’ve got a sheriff’s deputy that lives right up the street.”

Littlefield, meanwhile, said that he chose the voluntary satellite annexation specifically so that his neighbors wouldn’t be affected by the decision. 

Town Manager Paige Dowling advised the board against approving the annexation, saying that the cost of extending trash pickup to that single parcel would outweigh tax revenues gained, and that the costs of updating all the necessary maps and records to reflect the annexation would be substantial. 

“The parcel is noncontiguous,” she said. “The most important thing is that the cost would outweigh the annual taxes. This would make sense for an entire neighborhood or a street, but the work involved for a single parcel is not economical.”

Littlefield had told the town that he’d pay for the cost of updating the maps and that he’d even be willing to forego trash pickup. Really, he said, he just wanted police protection and the right to vote in town elections. He saw the right to vote as doubly important in light of his understanding that the town’s long-term plan involves extending extra-territorial jurisdiction to his neighborhood — meaning that, should that come to pass, he and his neighbors would be subject to certain aspects of town authority but not be considered residents. However, his arguments failed to convince the board. 

“Philosophically I can’t imagine saying no to a voluntary annexation, but I do think that a community should grow with intent and purpose,” said Commissioner David Nestler. “If we were to grow Sylva’s borders by design, we would never design a satellite annexation.”

Nestler, along with the rest of the board, voted to deny the petition. Littlefield said that he wouldn’t rule out revisiting the issue in the future. 

“If there was a different board and I had the consent of the board and the board was willing to talk with me, then I would have no issue with resubmitting a petition for annexation,” he said. 

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