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SUMMERFIELD, N.C. (WGHP) — The fight over a large-scale development in Summerfield is heating up.

Less than two weeks after town leaders voted against new homes, apartments and town homes on 973 acres of land, leaders say they are hearing conversations about the land being de-annexed.

The town council held an emergency meeting Saturday night to discuss the possibility, the implications for the town and what they could do to stop it if it happens.

De-annexation starts with a conversation between a landowner and a state legislator.  The landowner doesn’t need permission from the town or entity it’s apart of to reach out to legislators about de-annexation.

“Whether it’s someone whose district encompasses the municipality, they will introduce a bill. It will go through the normal process,” said Jim Joyce, professor of public law at the UNC School of Government.

During the 2021/2022 legislative session there were only 20 across the state, with two of them in Guilford County.

“Right now, I think there are a couple bills bouncing around for de-annexation, so it’s something that happens a couple times a year,” Joyce said.

There is currently no de-annexation bill filed for land within the Town of Summerfield.

If it does happen, the town loses money. The town does not collect property taxes on any of the homes on the land, leaving less money for roads, sidewalks and fire departments.

If the de-annexation is approved, the land is subject to county development standards. The county planning department embarks on a 60-day due diligence period where they zone the land. The process is similar to when a land owner applies for their property to be rezoned with a public hearing.

“There are also many adjoining neighborhoods that are right there in the same vicinity as well,” Mayor Tim Sessoms said. “It would be very detrimental to our town, to our culture, to everything that in no small part makes Summerfield what it is today.”

David Couch owns the property Summerfield leaders want to protect to keep the small town feel they’ve had for so long.

“Summerfield is here, and Mr. Couch is here, and we’re slowly moving down the road, doing new things, putting new things in our ordinances, but it’s just to drastic,” Sessoms said.

FOX8 reached out to David Couch and Senator Phil Berger who represents the area.

Neither one directly acknowledged having conversations about de-annexation.

Couch released the following statement:

“I of course can’t speak on behalf of the legislature, so any questions about their plans you would have to be directed to them.

“What I can say is, for 25 years, the Summerfield Town Council has adopted zoning policies that have served to exclude residents of modest means, and they’ve done so with great effect. Though Summerfield abuts Greensboro, Summerfield’s median income is over twice as high and its proportion of black residents is 90% lower.

“The Town Council has even sacrificed basic environmental and safety best management practices and standards to maintain its exclusivity: Summerfield is the largest town in North Carolina without sewer and water service, even though I’ve offered to bring this infrastructure at no cost to existing residents except any extension and hookup fee. The Town continues to ignore this beneficial offer in their exploration of opportunities and alternatives to supply the town with water for fire suppression and clean, plentiful domestic drinking water. 

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“The Greensboro and Guilford County area ranked number one in the country last year in rental increases. We desperately need more housing supply, especially with the successful job recruitment efforts by many, and the billions of dollars in economic development in the immediate vicinity.”

–David Couch

Berger released the following statement:

“I don’t know if the plans submitted by a local developer should or should not be approved by the local board. What I do know is the Summerfield Town Board has refused to consider housing options that are needed for our citizens.  That is an untenable position for a community that is surrounded by billions of dollars in economic development to take. As our area continues to grow, additional housing is urgently needed so the nurses, teachers, first responders, and construction workers our area relies on can live in the places they serve.”

–Senator Phil Berger