City of Charlotte – Annexation – Frequently Asked Questions:
What is Annexation?
Annexation is the methodical extension of a city's boundaries into adjacent unincorporated areas, and the corresponding extension of that city's services to the areas encompassed by the new boundaries. In North Carolina, annexation is governed by state laws and statutes that allow cities and towns to annex adjacent areas under certain specific circumstances. There are two types of annexation: city-initiated and voluntary. City-initiated annexations can occur when an unincorporated area contains certain urban development characteristics (population density, subdivision of land into smaller lots, development intensity). Voluntary annexations can take place after the owner of unincorporated property petitions City Council for annexation. Annexation has enabled Charlotte's land area to more than double since 1980, reaching nearly 308 square miles as of July 1, 2017.
Why is Annexation Beneficial to the City of Charlotte and its citizens?
Annexation has enabled Charlotte and surrounding urban areas to avoid many problems other cities and metropolitan areas have experienced. If the City did not have the ability to expand its limits, ultimately it would find itself surrounded by significant amounts of developed area outside the city that would not participate financially in meeting the needs of the total urban community. Meanwhile, Charlotte's residents and property owners would find themselves disproportionately responsible for funding both the local and more regional service and facilities needs of the community typically provided by the City.
Through annexation, the tax base of the larger urban area is available to meet the needs of the urban area. Additionally, the City of Charlotte can offer public services in an efficient, consistent, equitable, and cost-effective manner, bringing high quality and low cost services to citizens businesses and property owners. The residents and property owners of newly annexed areas benefit from having improved fire protection, municipal traffic management and street maintenance, street lights, availability of basic water and sewer facilities, solid waste (garbage) collection, and other standard municipal services which the City of Charlotte provides.
How Does an Area Qualify for Annexation?
In order to qualify for annexation, an area must meet several specific urbanization requirements set forth in the State statutes, dealing with population density, subdivision, and development density. In general, the requirements are designed to discourage or prevent cities from annexing large tracts of vacant or rural land before they are developed to the established standards.
Since the state annexation legislation was changed in 2011 and 2012 (making it much more challenging for cities and towns to undertake City-initiated annexation), Charlotte and other municipalities across the state have relied upon Voluntary annexations to extend municipal services and boundaries.
Voluntary annexations are initiated upon receipt in the Charlotte City Clerk’s office of a completed voluntary annexation petition signed by the owners of the property being proposed for annexation. The development standards discussed above need not be met for voluntary annexations. Voluntary annexations are also governed by several other principles, policies, and statutes, most notably that voluntary annexation statutes may be considered (1) when they will not have an undue impact upon City finances or services; (2) when – if property boundaries are not contiguous with current City boundaries (satellite annexation) – they may be required to be in closer proximity to Charlotte city boundaries than to boundaries of adjoining municipalities; (3) the property must be located within Charlotte’s Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ), and (4) annexations cannot create a situation where an unincorporated area becomes completely encompassed by properties within the city (“donut hole”).
The state statutes governing annexation may be found on the NC General Assembly website.
What are the Voluntary Annexation Procedural Requirements?
The State annexation statutes allow for property owners to petition for voluntary annexations under specific circumstances. For instance, the property must either be contiguous to the current City limits, or in some instances must be in closer proximity to Charlotte City boundaries than to other nearby incorporated municipalities. More specifically, the property must also fall within Charlotte's Extraterritorial Jurisdiction
Petitions for voluntary annexations are made through the City Clerk's office. Forms and instructions can be viewed at City Clerk's website
A pre-application meeting between the property owner interested in voluntary annexation and City staff is required, in order for staff to fully explain the process and preliminarily assess whether the potential petition will adhere to applicable State statutes and City policies.
Can the City of Charlotte annex an area already in one of the towns (Huntersville, Mint Hill, etc.)?
Charlotte cannot annex an area already incorporated into another local municipality. Charlotte and the following towns in Mecklenburg County (Mint Hill, Matthews, Cornelius, Davidson, and Huntersville) have mutually agreed upon boundaries - called "spheres of influence" - beyond which each entity has agreed not to annex. One municipality cannot annex property within another's sphere of influence. Therefore, no unincorporated area of Mecklenburg County is eligible to be annexed by more than one Mecklenburg municipality. In addition, the City of Charlotte has annexation agreements with the towns of Weddington, Stallings, Marvin, Concord, Midland, and Harrisburg (all outside of Mecklenburg County) under which the City has agreed not to annex property in Union and Cabarrus Counties (where these towns are located). Those municipalities have also agreed not to annex property in Mecklenburg County within Charlotte's sphere of influence.
What are the benefits of annexation to property owners and homeowners within annexation areas?
Beginning on the effective annexation date, property owners in annexation areas become eligible to receive City services, such as trash collection and street maintenance. In many unincorporated areas, the City of Charlotte already provides police protection services through the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and fire protection through the Charlotte Fire Department. The Charlotte Water department already provides water and sewer services throughout many areas of Mecklenburg County and uses the same rates and service policies for both City and non-City customers.
My property taxes are paid by the bank that holds the mortgage to my property. Will the City notify the bank or mortgage holder once the property has been annexed into the City of Charlotte?
No direct notification will be made to the bank or mortgage holder of the newly annexed property. However, the tax bills sent out by Mecklenburg County early in September (many of which are sent to banks if escrow agreements are in place) will reflect the combined City and County taxes for the current fiscal year, and since the Tax Collector's Office is a combined City/County agency, the bank will make tax payments to the same place after annexation.
Are there policies and regulations (other than those specified in the State annexation laws and statutes) that govern what and how Charlotte can undertake annexation?
In cooperation with many of its neighboring municipalities, Charlotte has developed a series of annexation agreements that establishes Charlotte's sphere of influence as the area within which Charlotte may annex, that sets forth certain annexation notification obligations, and also establishes other procedural responsibilities between and among the cities and towns involved. Charlotte currently has annexation agreements with Davidson, Cornelius, Huntersville, Matthews, and Mint Hill in Mecklenburg County, Stallings, Weddington and Marvin in Union County, and Concord, Harrisburg and Midland in Cabarrus County. Additionally, Charlotte has established a set of policies aimed at better guiding both City-initiated and voluntary annexations. These policies may be viewed below:
• Voluntary annexation policies
• City-initiated annexation policies
How long does the Voluntary annexation process take?
Voluntary annexations may be initiated at any time by the submittal of a property owner’s petition, so are not subject to any specific schedule. The process – beginning with receipt (in the City Clerk’s office) of a complete voluntary petition to City Council approval of the annexation – typically takes approximately five months. Forms and procedures are available through the City Clerk's website.