Land Grab

by Jordan Green

Greensboro annexation, by the numbers:
Number of acres the city of Greensboro will absorb on June 30 through the involuntary annexation process: 4,467 Number of acres the city will absorb on June 30 through the petitioned annexation process: 592’­ Numberof acres in Laurel Park, Whitehurst Village and Hartwood Villagesubdivision, which the Greensboro City Council voted to delay annexinguntil at least 2009 after residents complained that they did notrealize petitions had been filed and the increased tax burden wouldimpose a hardship: 152 Number of unexecuted annexation petitions on file with the Greensboro Planning Department: 748 Minimum number of acres covered by unexecuted annexation petitions on file with the Greensboro Planning Department: 3,573 Minimum number of lots covered by unexecuted annexation petitions, most of which are home sites: 1,650 Estimatedproportion of acres covered by annexation petitions submitted forindustrial and commercial properties compared to the total: 1 out of 10 Estimated percentage of acreage covered by Guilford County public schools in annexation petitions on file with the city: 7 Estimatedpercentage of acreage covered by churches, which enjoy tax-exemptstatus, in annexation petitions on file with the city: 3 Estimated percentage of acreage covered by annexation petitions whose use or purpose could not be determined: 8 Estimatedproportion of acreage covered by annexation petitions submitted byhomeowners or builders for single or double lots in existingsubdivisions: 2 out of 10 Minimum number of acres covered byannexation petitions filed by property owners, developers or buildersprior to the sale of new homes: 1,907 Percentage of acreageunder petition for annexation in which the request was paid prior tothe home sale, and possibly without the knowledge of the currenthomeowner: 53 Average percentage by which these residents’property taxes will increase once the city decides to execute theannexation petitions: 70 Ratio of acreage under petition forannexation that falls outside of new and proposed sections of the UrbanLoop, compared to acreage within the loop: 4 to 1 Percentage of acreage under petition for annexation that falls within the southeast quadrant of Guilford County: 60 Percentage of acreage under petition for annexation that falls within the northeast quadrant of the county: 25 Percentage of acreage under petition for annexation that falls within the western half of the county: 15 Minimumnumber of acres under petition for annexation in the Rock Creek area,including portions served by Burlington water and sewer service: 1,659 Estimatednumber of acres under petition for annexation in the Forest Oaks areabeyond the Urban Loop in southeastern Guilford County: 970 Estimatednumber of acres under petition for annexation in the Young’s Mill Roadarea within the Urban Loop in southeastern Guilford County: 514 Estimatednumber of acres under petition for annexation in the Stoney Creeksubdivision beyond the proposed Urban Loop in northeastern GuilfordCounty: 341 Estimated number of acres under petition forannexation in the Sedgefield area beyond the new Urban Loop insouthwestern Guilford County: 170 Estimated number of acresunder petition for annexation in the Liberty Road and Vandalia areaswithin the Urban Loop in southeastern Guilford County: 78 Estimatednumber of acres under petition for annexation in McKnight Mill Roadarea within the proposed Urban Loop in northeastern Guilford County: 38 Estimated total number of acres under petition for annexation for properties that lie within the Urban Loop: 697 Number of acres to be added to the city through petitioned annexation on June 30 that fall within the Urban Loop: 25 Percentageto which acreage within the Urban Loop comprises of the total land areato be taken into the city through petitioned annexation: 4 Unexecuted Greensboro annexation petitions for residential subdivisions Unexecuted Greensboro annexation petitions for residential subdivisions • Auburn Hills at Sedgefield Twelve; DR Horton Homes, Fort Worth, Texas; 31 acres • Bentonville; Gregory A. Stakias, Greensboro; 16 acres; 2002 • Briarwood; K. Hovnanian Homes, Red Bank, NJ; 97 acres; 1997 • Candace Ridge; Heirs of Mazie H. Gorrell, Greensboro; 33 acres; 2002 • Forest Oaks Country Club; Forest Oaks Country Club, New York; 367 acres; 1999 • Glen Laurel; DR Horton Homes, Fort Worth, Texas; 36 acres; 1998 • Gramercy Park; K. Hovnanian Homes, Red Bank, NJ; 153 acres; 1998 • Griffin Mill; James Millican, Greensboro; 50 acres; 2005 • Hartwood Village; DR Horton Homes, Fort Worth, Texas; 42 acres, 1999 • Laurel Park; Associated Developers, Newport News, Va.; 72 acres, 2000 • Liberty Valley; Redwolf Development Co., Greensboro; 18 acres; 1999 • Liberty Valley Section 1 and Section 2-A; H&H Industries, Graham; 12 acres; 1997 • Lochwood; Carrolland Corp.; Roy Carroll II, Greensboro; 34 acres; 1999 • Olde Forest Section 15; Associated Developers, Newport News, Va.; 38 acres; 2001 • The Reserve at Rock Creek; Pierce Homes of Carolina, Greensboro; 132 acres; 2004 • Sommersby at Stoney Creek; Portrait Homes, Houston; 10 acres; 1997 • Stoney Creek; Weaver Investment Co., Greensboro; 132 acres; 1997 • Stoney Creek South; Stoney Creek Partners, Greensboro; 145 acres; 1997 and 1999 • Stonebrook Farms West Section 11; Roy E. Carroll Sr., Greensboro; 35 acres; 1997 • Thorpe Square; Clayburne B. Thorpe and Vivian C. Thorpe, Greensboro; 15 acres; 2004 • Trinity Lake; Trinity Lake Corp., London; 86 acres; 1997 • Whitehurst Village; Associated Developers, Newport News, Va.; 36 acres; 1997 • Worthing Chase Phase 1; DR Horton Homes; Fort Worth, Texas; 21 acres; 2004 • Worthing Chase Phases 2, 3 and 4; David N. Hodgin and Helen S. Hodgin, Greensboro; 43 acres; 2004 • Wyckshire at Stoney Creek; Pawprint Development, Greensboro; 11 acres; 1997

FredBoateng, a senior planner in the Greensboro Planning Department,possesses a jocular personality. Exchanges between him and hiscolleagues on the third floor of the Melvin Municipal Building arequick-witted and good-natured. Boateng has been known to bring hisyoung daughter back to work from daycare if he’s working late, and herexuberant outbursts provide amusement in the office. By Monday,June 2, the planning department had completed original zoning proposalsfor property scheduled for annexation at the end of the month. Theannexations had already been approved by the city council in Novemberand April and approving the zonings would be a routine part of theprocess, but the city still expected county residents affected byannexation to turn out in force; the planning department had beendeluged with phone calls. Around noon, Boateng took a call fromWilliam Marshburn, a resident of Long Valley Road, a community on thenorthwestern city’s northwestern fringe. The city planner switched thephone speaker on as the caller became increasingly agitated. "You’re acorporation, is that right?" Marshburn said. "I don’t appreciate itwhen you come on my property and assess fees." At one point, Boateng responded, "Don’t shoot me, sir." Marshburn ended the call abruptly, and Boateng laughed loudly but with a hint of unease. "You’re pissing people off, Fred," one of his female colleagues quipped. Later, Planning Manager Rawls Howard stepped into Boateng’s office and placed a call to building security. "A caller just told my senior planner: "I’m going to shoot your city council members,’" he said. "That’s a direct quote." Thenext day the 57-year old Marshburn turned up outside city councilchambers after receiving a warning from police to stay away from themeeting and cursed three police detectives, according to a magistrate’sorder. Marshburn was charged with communicating threats and publicdisturbance. Planning Director Dick Hails said Marshburn hadcomplained that in the next several years the city will force him toabandon his well and septic system, and hook into the city’s water andsewer service. "We’ve been talking to a number of propertyowners in this area where their wells and septic systems work fine,"Hails said. "They’re being annexed, and this means that they’re at sometime going to have to be connected to city water and sewer. There’s alot of anger." Greensboro’s move to expand its geographicfootprint falls at a time when resistance is mounting against municipalannexation across the state, and against a North Carolina statutepassed in 1959 that gives county residents little recourse againstcities intent on increasing their populations and tax bases. Statelawmakers have introduced bills proposing local annexation moratoriumsto hem in the city of Salisbury’s growth in Rowan County and to haltWilmington’s march in New Hanover County. A bipartisan bill introducedlast month to impose a statewide moratorium until June 30, 2009 isbeing considered by the House Judiciary II Committee. Annexationopponents in Guilford County have already won a modest victory. OnApril 1, residents of the Mount Hope Church Road area near McLeansvillepersuaded the Greensboro City Council to delay annexation of the LaurelPark and Whitehurst Village subdivisions for at least another year.At-large Councilman Robbie Perkins, a commercial real estate broker whoheads NAI Piedmont Triad, and Dianne Bellamy-Small, the District 1representative, were the lone holdouts. Parading before the rostrum,the residents raised several troubling questions. A formeremployee of aerospace giant Lockheed Martin and New Mexico transplantwho said he was on disability hinted darkly about his American dreambeing snatched away and declared that he had lost faith in the federalgovernment. A New Jersey woman said that following the death of herhusband, she struggled to make house payments and then triedunsuccessfully to put her home back on the market. Another man said hehad suddenly found himself unemployed. The two subdivisions,which were carved out of the Piedmont forest in the late 1990s andearly 2000s and thrown up by the nation’s largest homebuilder, DRHorton, have not escaped unscathed from the unfolding foreclosurecrisis. The Laurel Park home of Redman and Michelle Caldwell went onthe pubic auction block at the Guilford County Courthouse in Aprilafter the couple defaulted on a loan from Lehman Brothers Bank. Annexingthe two subdivisions and doubling property taxes would present ahardship to residents who are retired, disabled, unemployed orotherwise dependent on fixed incomes, the homeowners argued. Thevote against annexing Laurel Park and Whitehurst Village came aftercouncil voted in November to roll in 4,467 acres and more than 10,000residents in a city-initiated process. The two subdivisions nearMcLeansville and 37 other parcels, in contrast, ended up beingconsidered for annexation because property owners had requestedannexation in exchange for hookup to the city’s water and sewer system.Sort of. Associated Developers of Newport News, Va. filedannexation petitions for Whitehurst Village and Laurel Park in 1997 and2000 before DR Horton built the houses, and residents said no one toldthem at closing that their home purchase made them a party to a bindingagreement to accept annexation. One Whitehurst Village resident namedLyle Cunningham later learned that the lawyer who closed the sale ofhis house on behalf of DR Horton was disbarred for defrauding thehomebuilder of $802,185. McCormick is currently serving an 11-yearsentence at a state prison for embezzlement. It would take aconscientious lawyer or a scrupulous homebuilder to alert the buyers tothe agreement. Deeds for homes purchased from DR Horton provide only anobscure reference to the annexation petition: "This conveyance is…made subject to any easements, restrictions and rights of way ofrecord, if any, and to ad valorem taxes for the current year as theyapply." Messages to the company’s spokeswoman were notreturned before the deadline for this story. Requests for comment fromAssociated Developers also went unanswered. The residents alsoraised the question of whether the city could afford to extend policeprotection to the Mount Hope Church Road area. The police departmentestimates it will need an additional 31 sworn officers to provideadequate coverage for all the areas slated to be folded into the cityon June 30. "We’re understaffed when it comes to police,"District 2 Councilwoman Goldie Wells said. "The police unit that serveseastern Greensboro, that division, is understaffed, and we have beendealing with that in the eastern part of the city already. I hear theconcerns of citizens because they will be taxed, and then we will bestrained because we don’t have enough for the area that I live in….We will promise, and can we really deliver?" A YES! Weeklyinvestigation found that Greensboro has extended water, sewer or somecombination of the two services to developments outside the city limitsfor areas covering at least 3,500 acres in exchange for a request forannexation that the city may execute at a time of its choosing. Morethan half of those petitions were filed prior to the construction andsale of new homes by developers, homebuilders or property owners tryingto make their land more suitable for development. That arrangement hasbound new homeowners to an agreement to accept annexation at a laterand unspecified date. Measured by acreage, the largest petitionwas filled by the pension fund for the firefighters and police officersof Tampa, Fla. for 1,659 acres at the Rock Creek development. Thedevelopment near Sedalia straddles the Greensboro-Burlingtonwater-sewer boundary. Other petitioners in the Rock Creek area includeGreensboro-based Pierce Homes of Carolina, and manufacturers Medi,Rodico and Crescent Sleep Products. The Weaver Investment Co.,Greensboro real-estate company with roots in the mid-20th centuryrental apartment boom, filed an annexation petition in 1997 for 132acres at Stoney Creek, an exclusive subdivision built around an 18-holechampionship golf course. In the mid-1990s, Richard Grubar,then a Weaver employee and Greensboro City Council member, successfullypushed the city to adopt the annexation petition, which states: "Inconsideration of the availability of public water or sanitary sewer, orboth, provided by the city, in addition to those considerationsotherwise required by law, the owners hereby petition the city councilof the city of Greensboro for voluntary annexation into the corporatelimits of the city." Retired president Mike Weaver said hiscompany spent about $4 million running sewer lines out to Stoney Creekin the late 1980s and early 1990s, so the new annexation ordinance waslike "someone holding a gun to your head." Weaver and LeeMcAllister, the current president and CEO, said the company takes careto inform prospective homebuyers of the annexation request. "Whatwe had starting in 1997 was an agreement that each homeowner signedthat said that they understood that an agreement with the city had beensigned saying they would not opposed annexation," McAllister said. "Itreferenced a letter from the city to the developer." Since 1997,annexation petitions for major residential subdivisions in the countyhave been filed by national homebuilders such as DR Horton, K.Hovnanian and Portrait Homes, alongside local developers like as RoyCarroll II, Gregory A. Stakias and David B. Michaels. Questionedby city council members at the April 1 meeting about the agreementscontested by the Laurel Park and Whitehurst Village residents, actingCity Attorney Becky Jo Peterson-Buie provided an answer that might havecome from a magical realism novel. "In these particular mattersthe people all signed a petition to receive water and sewer service,"she said. "In consideration of receiving the water and sewer service,the contract indicates that they agree that they will not contest anannexation at the time that the city of Greensboro deems it appropriateto bring them inside the city limits. That’s the difference…. Inother words, they’ve asked, or they’ve agreed that they want to comeinto the city in exchange for receiving the benefit of water and sewerservice." District 4 Councilman Mike Barber interjected: "Or their developer. Not them individually." CathyHeath, co-chair of the Stop NC Annexation Coalition, said other NorthCarolina cities such as Cary are moving towards mandatory annexationordinances that avoid the confusion engendered when developers requestannexation and then years later homeowners find themselves blindsidedwhen the city decides to pull the trigger. "I think anyonethat’s buying property out in the country that has municipal-suppliedwater and sewer, they need to double check," Heath said. "If there’snot strong enough full-disclosure laws so that they know this housecomes with an agreement to annex, that’s a concern. There should besome recourse for those people. They’re going to buy that house.They’re going to set their budget: "This is how much taxes I’m going tohave to pay. These are my expenses.’ And then that rug is going to bepulled out from them. That’s going to be a difficult financial hurdle,devastating for some." Even annexation opponents agree that there was nothing illegal about the real-estate transactions. "There’sthe law and there’s what’s fair," said Richard Browne, a Winston-Salemlawyer hired to advise the Laurel Park and Whitehurst Villageresidents. "The law says when the developer filed the annexationpetition with the city, that was for all the world to see. The law saidwhen they bought their house, they had notice. In practice, theydidn’t. The realtors didn’t notify them, and they didn’t ask. They hadno reason to think they would be annexed." In practice, even ifinformation about the annexation petition is included in the closingdocuments, the homebuyer might not know what they’ve agreed to. "Iknow when we do real estate closings, people come in, they smile, theysign documents," said Barber, a real estate lawyer and councilman. "Wesay a few things about their interest rate, and they go on out thedoor. And we give them a big envelope with paper. Nobody ever touchesit or reads it. So I am very sensitive to the fact if nobody tells you,there’s no reason to know. That’s a real difficulty that is hard toswallow." Julius McLaughlin, a licensed realtor who sold part ofhis farm on Young’s Mill Road to Trinity Lake Corp. of London in 2002,agreed. "I think the people who live out of town, unless theywere informed enough to ask the real estate agent, probably didn’tknow," he said. McLaughlin and his wife bought their farm inthe mid-1980s when land was cheap. The gently rolling hills and woodsswaddling area lakes made it attractive property, though not realestate coveted by most developers, who neglected the southeasternGuilford farmland beyond Greensboro’s poorest and blackest quadrant infavor of Battleground Avenue, the Cardinal and other areas to the westand north. Trinity Lake Corp. folded part of the McLaughlin farminto the new Trinity Lake development. With houses built by K.Hovnanian Homes starting at around $250,000, its resident includepolice officers and sheriff’s deputies, with a large percentage ofblacks but a healthy representation of white residents too. Residencyconfers boating and fishing privileges at the lake, in addition toaccess to a clubhouse, recreational pool and tennis courts. "Ithink this one is going to be [annexed] next," McLaughlin said, addingthat he gathered the impression after speaking to a former member ofGreensboro Zoning Commission, whom he declined to identify. "I’vetalked to some of the neighbors," said the realtor, who held onto aportion of the farm to build his home. "A lot of them came fromMaryland and New Jersey. If a person asked you, you’d bring it up, butyou’re not going to just tell them because you’re not going to push theissue. How often is somebody going to volunteer that information? Youdon’t know exactly when annexation is going to come, and that’s tellingthe truth. If someone asks, I say, "Yes, it’s one mile from the citylimits.’ History says, "Yes, you will be annexed.’" Cheapproperty in recent decades, big houses, North Carolina’s famouslytemperate climate, room to cut new subdivisions and golf courses out ofthe Piedmont woodlands, not to mention low property taxes – all ofthese factors have drawn new residents from the Northeast. In 2006,North Carolina overtook New Jersey as the 10th largest state in theunion, and the Garden State supplied many of the migrants. "Imoved here from New Jersey in 2004," Laurel Park resident Ann Castagnatold the city council in April, wiping away tears. "My husband, wemoved down here because he was sick. We needed to get into the betterclimate and for a lot of other reasons. We moved into that house fouryears ago. Things are a lot cheaper here in North Carolina than theyare in New Jersey. Especially taxes. What happened was two years ago myhusband passed away. So here I am left with what you people call "bighouse.’ Which is too big for me alone. And one salary coming in. And myboss is here. He can verify that my salary’s not so great." Manyof the Laurel Park residents suggested the city cherry-picked them forannexation to address its budget problems by targeting their relativelyhigh-value homes. Yet no one argues that annexation is an effectivemeans of generating revenue. "You’re looking a extendingservices in a logical pattern," Deputy City Manager Bob Morgan toldYES! Weekly last fall. "In the long run you want a break-evensituation, but in some areas revenues exceed expenditures, and in someareas expenditures exceed revenues. Overall, it should even out. In thefirst couple years, it’s not unusual to come out behind." Barber suggested a more fundamental motive: defending Greensboro’s third place in the state’s population rankings. "Thereare a number of areas that create status," he said. "For cities andregions, one is wealth and one is population. It’s important [forcities to expand] for so many reasons. Any city that, like Detroit, isdeclining in population begins to develop an undesirable reputation. Wewant to maintain our status as the third largest city in NorthCarolina. We don’t want to be surpassed by Wilmington and Fayetteville." AssistantChief Gary Hastings acknowledged that the city’s annexation of 207acres in the McLeansville area beyond the Urban Loop is likely tostrain the police department "Obviously, travel time is aconcern for us," he said. "If an officer gets out there and needsassistance, it takes awhile to get there. We’re short-staffed and wehave manpower issues now…. It does challenge our resources, just indistance alone." The department will have to move policeofficers over to patrol, primarily in the Cardinal area, and backfilltheir existing duties by ramping up over-time hours, Hastings said. Patrolofficers complain about travel time, but Greensboro has pursuedleap-frog annexation course since the early part of the decade, and thecity footprint has become increasingly elongated over the years. Aglance at the city map shows the Reedy Fork area between Lake Townsendand US Highway 29 looking something like an arm extended in a slam-dunkwhile areas along McKnight Mill Road remain undeveloped; the naturalfrontier of east Greensboro fizzling out with a row of Habitat forHumanity houses for immigrant beneficiaries at Shirley Lane while thecity crawls eastward on Interstate 85-40 about four miles beyond theUrban Loop; the Cardinal and areas along US Highway 68 practicallyencircling Piedmont Triad Airport while the airport itself remainsexempt as part of an outmoded neutrality agreement with the city ofWinston-Salem; and Adams Farm protruding beyond the Urban Loop in thesouthwest and the noncontiguous Grandover menacing High Point like anarmada creeping down Interstate 85, while vast areas within the UrbanLoop in the county’s southeast quadrant remain unincorporated. Themajor satellite-annexation move in the past decade took place in theMcLeansville area, the fallout of a turf battle rooted in countyresidents’ desire to keep their taxes low. "There was a littlebit of a defensive move with respect to incorporation by McLeansville,"said Alec McIntosh, the city’s subdivision planning manager. "At onepoint there was a proposal rattling around the state legislature toincorporate an area half as big as Greensboro. When we processedannexation petitions out there, that was to protect our ability to groweastward and to protect ourselves against McLeansville incorporating." TheYoung’s Mill Road area, including Trinity Lake, Gramercy Park,Lochwood, Thorpe Square and Candace Ridge, would seem to be a primecandidate for annexation. YES! Weekly found an estimated 341 acres ofland in the area covered by unexecuted annexation petitions. Incomparison, unexecuted annexation petitions in the Mount Hope ChurchRoad area near McLeansville cover only an estimated 204 acres. "Thereason the annexation of those hasn’t rolled yet is because of fireservice," McIntosh said. "I think once the fire station in the MountHope Church Road is built the fire department will make some runs overthere to see if the response time is good…. I can’t tell you, "Yes,we definitely will roll some of those petitions in the next year,’ or,"No, we definitely won’t.’" McIntosh said interest indevelopment around Mount Hope Church Road outpaces that in the Young’sMill Road area, although both are growing at a fast clip. "Thereare lots of inquiries on tracts within striking distance of that MountHope Church Road-I-85 interchange," he said. "People calling up waterresources and asking, "What would it take to get water to such and sucha tract?’ You take a combination of what has occurred and an indicationof what’s coming, and it’s substantial in both locations, but it’s moresubstantial in the Mount Hope Church Road area." The city hasmade no effort to calculate whether investing in a fire station in theYoung’s Mill area to provide an incentive for more compact developmentwould pay off with more efficient provision of police, maintenance andgarbage and recycling pickup services. "The very best thing forcities is tight contiguous growth," City Manager Mitchell Johnson said."Other cities are more regulatory than Greensboro. We’re somewhatlaissez faire." The only infrastructure investment the citymakes to encourage compact growth is a subsidy to developers to upsizeand add sewer and water service whose generosity is directlyproportionate to the lines proximity to the city, Johnson said. Cunningham,who moved to Whitehurst Village from rural Virginia and teaches atGTCC, takes a less than charitable view of Greensboro’s reach. "Theyleapfrogged out here because of the tax base," he said. "There’s atrailer park and an auto auction in between. None of that’s city. Whywould they want that? We’re way out here. The city should grow outhere. But they suckered us in with the water and the sewer." JoelLandau, an unsuccessful candidate for city council, has often foundhimself voting alone against annexation as a member of the city’splanning board. "It’s such a drain in terms of providingservices," he said. "We’ve got to run the garbage trucks out there, andthey’ve got to cover all these miles without any pickups. Same with thepolice…. It ties up valuable resources. As fuel prices continue torise, as they likely will continue to do, it makes even less sense interms of economics." Seven years in, it’s hard to imagine turning back the clock. "It’sjust a mess," Landau said. "Once you’re out there, it makes sense tofill it in so you can provide services more efficiently. I think it’s amistake that we annexed these outlying areas, and I hope we don’tcompound it by annexing other outlying areas without first puttingfocus on compatible infill." Whatever the fate of proposedone-year annexation moratorium in the General Assembly, capacity crowdsat legislative hearings in Raleigh and Asheville suggest a citizens’revolt is underway. The repercussions could potentially realign localpolitics. A precedent Greensboro council members can’t relishis one set by Wilmington in the 1990s. The city went on a growth binge,and then residents newly empowered to vote in municipal electionsturned out a majority of the council and helped remove a city manager. Cunningham,who describes himself as "way on the conservative side," said: "I’m notabove going out and finding new people to run for city council. I’vegot some contacts with the Southeast Neighborhood Coalition. There’sthe [Greensboro] Neighborhood Congress. I can tell you that it will bea black woman." His neighbor in Laurel Park, Charlena Bradley-Banks, is one prospect. "We’rea little dubious about her candidacy because she’s talking about goingback to Washington, DC," Cunningham said. "We’re going to keep looking.We’re going to pursue replacing Dianne Bellamy-Small." Bradley-Banksrelocated with her husband to Greensboro when the US Postal Servicemoved a human relations department to North Carolina. If she hadit to do over again, she said she would buy a house within the citylimits. The tax rate in the county is "so much lower than it was inWashington, DC," she said. "And then if they raise our taxes, we wouldbe paying about the same as we did in the DC area," but withoutstandard urban amenities. Bradley-Banks and her husband spent $345,000on their home in Laurel Park; the same house in the Washington, DC areawould have fetched a million dollars. As Bradley-Banks spokeat the April 1 council meeting, Mayor Yvonne Johnson’s expressionbetrayed a look of mild distaste. Bradley-Banks displayed open contempt. "Ifyou do annex us, I will run for mayor and show you how a city is to berun, and not come to a meeting and say, "If you need me, please call,’"Bradley-Banks said. "Why come thirty or forty minutes to say that? Whatkind of politician do things like this? Maybe it’s just Greensboro." Thewoman’s impatience crashed up against the norms of civility andlassitude that characterize even the most testy of conflicts inGreensboro politics. "We need policemen protection,"Bradley-Banks said, her voice striking like a hammer. "We need healthservices. We need libraries. We need fire department, shopping centers.We have none of that where I live. In the District of Columbia I couldgo each block. You will find a fire department. You will find healthfacilities. You will find stores, fire department, library and all ofthose things. And again, we don’t want to be part of Greensboro." She presented the city with its options, but to council members it may have not sounded like a choice at all. "It’sa very difficult time, not only in Greensboro, the United States ofAmerica," Bradley-Banks said. "The gas prices. The prices of home. Somany people are losing their homes. And I really think it’s a shame andit’s a disgrace. So I leave it up to you guys, you politicians, to dowhat is right, and do what is just." To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at