City Council members approved changes this week to the Rock Hills utility service agreement a move that renewed debate over the citys annexation policy.
Council member Jim Reno said the debate on using the utility service agreement as a means for growth brought to mind the complaints from Miller Pond subdivision residents in 2010.
Miller Pond residents sued the city in 2010 in an effort to fight what they deemed to be forced annexation into Rock Hill by city government.
The most recent change isnt a reactionary one to pending or potential lawsuits, Reno said, its just a way to ensure the city is using multiple ways to inform customers of its annexation policy.
A separate document titled Notice of Future Annexation that customers sign when they have homes outside city limits will now be represented but not copied completely in the one-page utility service agreement signed by all customers.
For now, the separate document will still be used, said Katie Quinn, city spokesperson.
We want the communication to be clear, but we don't want people to have to sign forms that aren't necessary, she said. We might re-evaluate the need for that other form in the future, but for now, we'll continue using it.
Council members focused on the need for improved communication at their retreat in January and staff has taken that to heart, Quinn said.
This weeks council vote does not change the annexation policy, only summarizes it within the utility service agreement.
Rock Hill has no obligation to provide the service for consumers located outside of municipal limits and by the act of receiving water and sewer services, property owners are agreeing to sign any future annexation petitions.
That compliance on future annexation extends to any consumer or future tenant living there, according to the citys contract with customers.
This practice of a developer or original homeowner agreeing to future annexation, without recourse for future homeowners, was the essence of the Miller Pond residents lawsuit against Rock Hill.
In January 2011 a court ruled in favor of the city, finding that the residents were obligated to be annexed based on an agreement the city made with the neighborhood's original developer long before lots were sold or houses built.
Mondays second reading and approval on the change, is the councils stamp of approval on a proposed amendment that came across its table in April.
During the April 23 council meeting, four of the seven members were present. Council member Kevin Sutton and Mayor Pro-Tem John Black voted the amendment down and Mayor Doug Echols and council member Osbey Roddey voted in favor of the change.
The 2-2 vote meant the proposal failed to pass.
The issue appeared again on the agenda during the Aug. 13 meeting but no council member made a motion to vote on the item.
More discussion and questions were asked during the Aug. 27 meeting, leading Sutton to say he did not support the change because the service agreement contractually binds the customer to accept Rock Hills annexation policy.
Council member Kathy Pender supported the change because she said she wanted such policies to be spelled out for people so that they know what theyre agreeing to.
Annexation of homes into the city limits subject residents to new fees and taxes a point made in the citys document Notice of Future Annexation but not included in the service agreement changes approved by the council.
Those new costs could include an increase in real estate and personal property taxes, a one-time fire impact fee and a recurring yearly stormwater fee, among others.
Customers might save money, too, if annexed into the city, according to the contract. Once a property receiving city utility services is annexed into city limits, the customers utility rates reduce and the cost of homeowners insurance may be lower.
Anna Douglas • 803-329-4068