A recent push for the incorporation of Denver will eventually have to make its way through the state legislature, which is where a similar proposal died nearly 20 years ago.
A committee made up of five concerned Denver residents has drafted a charter for what would become known as the Village of Denver, outlining the proposed boundaries of the incorporated area, the structure of its governing body, the organization and administration of the services the village would offer and the tax rate. The committee consists of sitting Lincoln County Commissioner Martin Oakes, whose term expires in December, former school board member Bob Silver, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Nic Haag, technology consultant Matt Smith and Matt Gustis, an engineer.
The committee has held two community meetings already this month in which they’ve presented their ideas and answered questions from the audience in hopes of garnering enough support to receive signatures from 15 percent of the 15,000 eligible voters that live within the proposed village boundaries. If the group is able to obtain those signatures, their plan for incorporation would then be sent to the state’s Joint Legislative Commission on Municipal Incorporations, which would examine the feasibility of their proposal before making a recommendation to the legislature as a whole.
“That commission will review their application, running fiscal analysis on whether what’s being petitioned is realistic based on tax rate,” Lincoln County state Rep. Jason Saine, a Lincolnton Republican, said. “The commission will look through their articles of incorporation piece by piece to get an idea of what this would actually look like and offer corrective action for anything that’s just not quite in order in terms of how the state government addresses municipalities. They’ll come to the legislature with a report after they’ve done all of that and a favorable recommendation in that report is required for the legislature to even consider the proposal.”
If that commission were to recommend incorporation, it would then be up to the county’s House representative and senator to introduce legislation that would make incorporation official. In 2000, the commission did recommend incorporation of what would have been known as the Town of West Norman in the Denver area, but the effort died on the House floor for reasons that differ based on who you ask.
Saine — who says he’s been flooded with emails following each of this month’s community meetings, most of which he said were not in favor of incorporation — has crafted a survey in an effort to better gauge the sentiments of Lincoln County residents on the topic of incorporating Denver.
The survey, which requires those who take it to provide their address in order to help verify authentic submissions, features a handful of questions based on the village’s proposed charter. The questions range from issues such as nonpartisan elections to the proposed property tax rate of nine cents per $100 of property value, as well as a proposed conveyance tax that was included in the original charter and has since been removed.
The survey, which Saine stressed is simply a tool for gathering feedback and not a scientific poll, has produced overwhelmingly negative results to this point. Of the nearly 500 people who have responded to the survey, roughly 80 percent have said that they are either “very unlikely” or “unlikely” to support incorporation, compared to just 13 percent who fall on the other end of the spectrum in favor of incorporation. The remaining 8 percent of those who have responded to the poll sit somewhere in the middle.
In addition to feedback from voters, Saine said he would also like to hear from county leaders on their thoughts about incorporation. Lincoln County Commissioner Rich Permenter, a Denver resident, expressed his displeasure with the idea of incorporation at the most recent community meeting and commissioner-elect Bud Cesena, who also resides in Denver, opposes the plan as well. Lincoln County Commission chairman Bill Beam, a Vale resident who is likely to become the county’s next sheriff, hasn’t offered his opinion one way or the other, but did express concern that the committee pushing for incorporation is moving too fast.
Saine, who says he’s still gathering information and hasn’t formed an opinion on the proposal as of yet, noted that the committee pushing for incorporation will first have to convince him that the benefits of incorporation outweigh the added taxes that would be levied on Denver residents.
“Let me be very clear, I’m not in favor of additional or higher taxes and that’s been my stance as long as I’ve been in office,” Saine said. “That’s a real hurdle for me to begin with but, with that being said, if there was overwhelming support from the community and that’s what folks wanted, I would certainly try to satisfy their wants as their representative. I’m not seeing that, however, because the feedback that I’ve received has been overwhelmingly negative.”
Those seeking more information about what has been proposed for the Village of Denver can view the most recent version of village’s charter by visiting www.denvernc.org. Those wishing to make their voices heard on the matter can complete Saine’s survey by visiting www.surveymonkey.com/r/villageofdenver.
The committee pushing for incorporation has two more community meetings scheduled for Thursday. Both meetings will be conducted at St. Peter By-The-Lake Episcopal Church, located at 8433 Fairfield Forest Road in Denver, with the first scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. and the second slated to start at 7 p.m.