In the first segment in a series of investigative reports, our reporters examine the myths, misinformation and realities of Seven Lakes becoming an incorporated town. There is a compelling reason to get the facts and dispel the many rumors that exist within the community on Facebook and other social media platforms.
Also the series will explore the pros and cons of incorporation as well as the dreaded subject of annexation.
The community needs to be aware that the Seven Lakes News is neither for nor against incorporation and will remain a neutral party to further discussions and as Joe Friday on Dragnet used to say, “Just the facts, ma‘am.“
Since the Seven Lakes News, has “No dog in the fight“ this will be an informative article based on information received primarily from the NC School of Government, named as well as unnamed confidential sources from the Moore County Commissioners, NC State Representatives as well as state sources.
In essence almost everyone that our reporters engaged with, considered commenting publicly to be “political suicide!“ Most declined to comment on the subject for fear of retaliation. Many officials would not return our calls when the subject was mentioned. Although many that we spoke with said that eventually they see incorporation as a foregone conclusion. Yes Seven Lakes will be incorporated eventually.
We also found that those that provided information were not absolutely certain of their answers. ”I believe so” was the answer to many of the questions that we asked officials.
Therefore, I believe this is only a start for discussions and more meaningful definitive answers need to be sought on this “moving target.“
For brevity we will use the abbreviation VSL, (Village of Seven Lakes) instead of spelling it out every time it may be utilized in this article.
We have plans to assemble a panel of community leaders in business and non-business segments to investigate both the advantages and disadvantages of incorporation.
According to the NC School of Government the process begins with a petition that must be submitted to the Commission of the General Assembly, and shall contain:
A petition signed by fifteen percent (15%) of the registered voters of the Seven Lakes. The signature petition must be verified by the county board of elections.
A statement that the proposed municipality will offer four of the following services no later than the first day of the third fiscal year following the effective date of the incorporation: (i) police protection; (ii)fire protection; (iii) solid waste collection or disposal; (iv) water distribution;(v) street maintenance; (vi) street construction or right-of-way acquisition; (vii) street lighting; and (viii) zoning. The proposed city must show that it can provide a reasonable tax rate for the four services listed in its petition, and that it can provide a reasonable tax rate for the types of services usually provided by similar municipalities.
According to comments from community leaders the four items for VSL would most likely be police protection, street maintenance, fire protection and zoning. These four services would be most cost efficient with regard to expenses.
Also a statement that the proposed city, VSL will have a budget ordinance with an ad valorem tax levy of at least five cents (5¢) on the one hundred dollar ($100.00) valuation upon all taxable property within city limits.
On the pros and cons of incorporating, taxes are a big concern, especially on those with fixed incomes in Seven Lakes. As an example if the budget is $4mm, ad valorem property tax of 20 cents per $1,000 property valuation would be needed to generate more than $4 million in revenues for Seven Lakes. This is for illustrative purposes only. The actual budget may be far less than $4mm. Based upon $4mm the average household, would pay between 55 cents and $1.10 per day in additional taxes. An extra measure of government, which translates into a mayor, city council and clerk, among other vital positions, would also be required. The Mayor and Town council may or may not be compensated through a majority vote in a referendum.
In order to qualify for providing police protection, the proposed city must propose either to provide police service or to have services provided by contract with a county or another city that proposes that the other government be compensated for providing supplemental protection. Fire protection may be provided with a contract for services with SL Volunteer Fire Department.
The petition must include a proposed name for the city, a map of the city, a list of proposed services to be provided by the proposed municipality, the names of three persons to serve as interim governing board, a proposed charter, a statement of the estimated population, assessed valuation, degree of development, population density, and recommendations as to the form of government and manner of election.
VSL‘s new council may consist of any number of members not less than three or more than 12. All candidates shall be nominated and elected by all the qualified voters of VSL.
Under current North Carolina law, a town may be incorporated only by act of the General Assembly. The decision to incorporate a community is essentially a political one; the General Assembly is not bound by any standards of population density, development, or tax base.
Will our community gates have to come down?
To keep our gates will we also have to pay separate HOA fees?
Will the general public be able to utilize the amenities within our gates the lakes, pool, stables, clubhouse, boat parking etc.?
Will property taxes increase?
Yes. For improved properties this could be approximately $300-$375 or more annual increase.
Will this increase in property taxes be adjusted by an increase in property values?
Yes. We received a range of 8-15% from officials. Prior incorporation statistics could not be utilized due to the current economic trends. Most agreed that the highest increases would be found on the lower and median priced properties as opposed to those that are situated on the lakes and golf courses.
Are the rumors that Pinehurst is planning on annexing Seven Lakes valid?
One county commissioner stated that this rumor isn‘t valid at this time and he hasn‘t heard anything. He also added since Pinehurst was not contiguous to Seven Lakes he thought this was highly unlikely. Other county officials that we spoke to had the opinion that Seven Lakes is ”low hanging fruit” with the business area having a valuation of more than $1 billion. It will just be a matter of time for annexation.
Can an HOA incorporate?
The short answer we received was yes. The West side could incorporate and annex the North and South sides or vice-versa.
How will our roads in the general and business community be repaved and repaired, in the future?
According to one source the state is the only entity that can service the roads outside of the HOA private road system not the county.
The public roads in Seven Lakes are currently maintained by NCDOT which include Seven Lakes Drive. Moore County is not responsible for the road system throughout the business district. Once incorporated VSL officials can meet with NCDOT engineers to decide which of the roads will become town roads and which will remain the states responsibility. Once VSL becomes incorporated it will not become eligible for NC street aid. under the Powell Act.
Under the Powell act if more than 40% are private roads in the proposed newly incorporated municipality the new entity becomes ineligible to receive funds.
If all of seven lakes is included in incorporation and the roads remain private within the existing community, then the area to be incorporated for the village to receive Powell bill funds must have approximately 70 more miles of roads. 70 miles of roads outside of the Seven Lakes community creates a large footprint that could be difficult to put together.
So, from a practical perspective, either Powell bill funds are off the table or the roads within Seven Lakes residential area must be public streets without gates to receive funding to repair the business village road system.
Must we have sewer service to incorporate?
How would we pay for water and sewer and how many years of amortization if we decided to implement sewer service?
According to a source we spoke to at Moore County Public Works department, a sewer system for all VSL would be approximately $33mm in a 2019 study. This would cost each homeowner approximately $85 monthly. Since septics don‘t fail very often they were of the opinion that only the business district would participate. Partners in Progress a county economic development team are currently discussing this option.
What percentage of sales tax funds generated by larger companies like Food Lion, Burney Hardware and McDonalds be distributed to our community?
The entire state of sales tax revenues are shared with Moore County and they would disperse an appropriate percentage with VSL.
Can VSL have an ABC store and how much in taxes would VSL receive?
Yes. VSL may be able to open a store. Again, the entire state sales taxes are pooled and shared with Moore County.
Can VSL get a new cell tower to improve our cell service reception?
VSL could possibly enter into a Cell tower lease agreement with companies like AT&T, Verizon & T-Mobile organizations allowing tower companies use of land in exchange for rent through a long-term agreement. Average lease rate in NC was $1,768.
Could VSL possibly get an internet account for all residents that opted in for faster speeds. Now, residents only have Spectrum and CenturyLink primarily with slow download speeds. We have been advised by internet providers here will be a faster service finalized in the Fall of this year. Residents could save money by VSL having a large customer base and residents could opt-in.
What type of grants would be generated by the state and federal governments that we cannot receive since we are not an official entity?
Many federal grants applications are too numerous to list.
Can VSL do anything to improve our postal and private package delivery systems?
After speaking with USPS District representatives in Raleigh one definite answer was that the Mail-houses will remain to receive USPS services. There is a possibility to utilize only one address which is at the root of our package delivery problems. The USPS could internally deliver mail to box 2000 South for the address 153 Devonshire. But USPS could do that immediately without incorporating.
We asked the question if VSL would have its own zip code and be named Seven Lakes NC. The answer was possible but not probable. “Was over their pay grade.“
If a petition is filed to incorporate is there a vote to approve it by all registered voters?
The General Assembly based on information received at the public hearing, the Commission may
recommend that any incorporation act passed by the General Assembly shall be submitted to a referendum, except if the petition contained the signatures of fifty percent (50%) of registered voters.
E-Mail Questions to SL News
Sources: NCDOT, UNC-SOG, UNC-EDU, NCLEG, NCLM, Moore County Commissioners, Board of Elections, Financial Services, Solid Waste, Public Works, GIS.