The North Wilkesboro commissioners are justified in being cautious about a landowner’s recent request for adding 33 non-contiguous acres adjoining N.C. 268 East and River Road/Liberty Grove Road to the town through satellite annexation.

The owner said in a letter to the town that he wants to sell the land to investors who would market it to potential buyers looking for sites to build townhomes, condominiums or houses. The parcel would have to be rezoned to R20 to allow this type of development.

These are a lot of “ifs” and something more definitive or safeguards are needed to justify this satellite annexation and resulting extension of town services. Plans for developing the property, which is behind Liberty Grove Baptist Church, need to be shared.

The highly-speculative nature of this proposal is even more of an issue considering that due to a state law limiting a municipality’s non-contiguous acreage, North Wilkesboro can only add about 75 more acres through satellite annexation.

The law says an annexing municipality’s non-contiguous acreage can’t exceed 10% of the area within its primary corporate limits. For North Wilkesboro, 10% is 416.23 acres and the town already has 341.83 non-contiguous acres.

Most of North Wilkesboro’s non-contiguous acreage is along N.C. 115, N.C. 268 East and the Canterbury Farms subdivision on Boone Trail. The current satellite annexed parcels on N.C. 268 East are zoned highway business and light industrial.

If the 33-acre parcel behind Liberty Grove Baptist Church is annexed, North Wilkesboro will only be able to add about 41 more non-contiguous acres unless its primary corporate limits are expanded or the town secures General Assembly approval of a “local bill” exempting it from the 10% limit.

Dozens of towns and cities have obtained this exemption, including Mount Airy, West Jefferson, Taylorsville, Statesville, Granite Quarry and Hickory.

For good reasons, few states allow satellite annexation and North Carolina attempts to limit this method of municipal expansion.

Satellite annexation often results in inefficient and inequitable delivery of municipal services. It promotes urban sprawl and sometimes creates discord.

Opposition to North Wilkesboro’s satellite annexation of the Canterbury Farms subdivision led to an effort, which wasn’t successful, to incorporate Millers Creek 20 years ago. Canterbury Farms is about three miles from the North Wilkesboro town limits.

There is a great need for more housing in Wilkes, but efforts to provide this shouldn’t result in a departure from good land use planning or prudent investment of town resources.

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