The issue of incorporating West Norman â€” also known as part of eastern Lincoln County â€” is not dead, at least in the eyes of the countyâ€™s Democratic Menâ€™s Club.
At a recent monthly meeting in Denver, conversation centered around the failed 2001 attempt to incorporate an area bordered on the east by Lake Norman, the south by N.C. 73, the west by Verdict Ridge Country Club, and stopping at Webbs Road on the north.
â€œRoughly, 15,000 residents would be in West Norman if the town was incorporated,â€ said Democratic Menâ€™s Club President Forrest Chambless.
Part of the problem, according to Chambless, was the desire of some people to change the name from â€œWest Normanâ€ to â€œDenverâ€ in the midst of the first incorporation push in the state legislature four years ago.
â€œThe name on the referendum for West Norman would have to stay West Norman until after passage,â€ he said.
â€œWe didnâ€™t want to pick Denver because if Denver ever wanted to incorporate, there couldnâ€™t be two Denvers side-by-side.â€
He added that West Norman could incorporate, annex Denver, and then change the name of the newly-incorporated city to Denver.
Another reason the incorporation measure didnâ€™t pass the first time had to do with money, according to Chambless.
â€œThere wasnâ€™t enough money to budget,â€ he said.
Under the original plan, Chambless said there was a â€œcalculated decisionâ€ made not to budget everything as other cities do.
â€œPolice and fire protection, for example, were going to be contracted out to the county,â€ said Chambless.
While the issue isnâ€™t expected to come up in the state legislature next year, some at the meeting pointed out that state representative Joe Kiser and some members of the Lincoln County commission are â€œagainst incorporation.â€
One of those commissioners is county commission Chairman Tom Anderson, a resident of eastern Lincoln County.
â€œI donâ€™t see supporting something that would add to the taxation of people trapped by incorporation,â€ he said.
He added that the Democrats are looking for an issue, â€œand they picked a controversial one.â€
He vowed to continue to fight against the incorporation issue.
â€œThe additional tax burden on those within the incorporated area would be 48 cents per $100 valuation, and that doesnâ€™t include the countyâ€™s taxes,â€ he said.
Anderson chuckled at the notion that the county could pick up some of the traditional city services if the West Norman area is incorporated.
â€œWhy in the world would Lincoln County, or any county for that matter, do that? I had serious questions whether or not the county would enter into an agreement like this,â€ he said.
Anderson wouldnâ€™t speculate on how the sitting commission would vote if the issue of incorporation were before them today.
One fear shared among the Democratic Menâ€™s group is that Huntersville will end up annexing the proposed incorporated area into their city.
â€œIf they take the area, then the tax base goes with it,â€ said Lincolnton resident W.J. Waters.
He added that the group should put pressure on Kiser to put the incorporation issue before the legislature.
The group also discussed how the demographics of the population of the proposed West Norman have changed, with younger people that are now calling eastern Lincoln County home.
â€œTheyâ€™re younger people who are more educated, and theyâ€™re going to demand changes to keep the eastern Lincoln economic engine flowing,â€ said Chambless.
Denver resident Mike Jones summed up the lack of support for the incorporation issue.
â€œThereâ€™s a lot of political lethargy in the area simply because people are too busy,â€ he said.
by Jon Mayhew