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West Norman incorporation issue alive but barely in east Lincoln

The issue of incorporating West Norman — also known as part of eastern Lincoln County — is not dead, at least in the eyes of the county’s Democratic Men’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.
“Roughly, 15,000 residents would be in West Norman if the town was incorporated,” said Democratic Men’s Club President Forrest Chambless.
Part of the problem, according to Chambless, was the desire of some people to change the name from “West Norman” to “Denver” in the midst of the first incorporation push in the state legislature four years ago.
“The name on the referendum for West Norman would have to stay West Norman until after passage,” he said.
“We didn’t want to pick Denver because if Denver ever wanted to incorporate, there couldn’t be two Denvers side-by-side.”
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 didn’t pass the first time had to do with money, according to Chambless.
“There wasn’t enough money to budget,” he said.
Under the original plan, Chambless said there was a “calculated decision” made not to budget everything as other cities do.
“Police and fire protection, for example, were going to be contracted out to the county,” said Chambless.
While the issue isn’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 “against incorporation.”
One of those commissioners is county commission Chairman Tom Anderson, a resident of eastern Lincoln County.
“I don’t see supporting something that would add to the taxation of people trapped by incorporation,” he said.
He added that the Democrats are looking for an issue, “and they picked a controversial one.”
He vowed to continue to fight against the incorporation issue.
“The additional tax burden on those within the incorporated area would be 48 cents per $100 valuation, and that doesn’t include the county’s taxes,” 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.
“Why 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,” he said.
Anderson wouldn’t speculate on how the sitting commission would vote if the issue of incorporation were before them today.
One fear shared among the Democratic Men’s group is that Huntersville will end up annexing the proposed incorporated area into their city.
“If they take the area, then the tax base goes with it,” 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.
“They’re younger people who are more educated, and they’re going to demand changes to keep the eastern Lincoln economic engine flowing,” said Chambless.
Denver resident Mike Jones summed up the lack of support for the incorporation issue.
“There’s a lot of political lethargy in the area simply because people are too busy,” he said.
by Jon Mayhew

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