Sunday, November 23, 2014
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City: No legal basis for nonresident voting

Hendersonville officials Monday said attorneys had researched a proposal to allow all property owners to vote on the $6 million park bond issue and determined that such an approach is not an option under state law.


The city took the unusual step of issuing a news release about a topic that has become a campaign issue in the 2013 City Council and mayoral election. Last week candidate Jeff Miller and Councilman Steve Caraker raised the question about the fairness of the bond referendum that does not allow the vote of property owners who live outside the city. They said they had heard from former mayor Fred Niehoff Jr. that an election was possible allowing all those who own property to vote.
"Following suggestions from several individuals in the community as reported by the local media, the city of Hendersonville has researched the proposal of allowing all those who pay property taxes in the City to vote in November's bond referendum," the city said in the news release.
Here is the city's news release:
"Legal counsel has determined that this is not an option under North Carolina law.
 City Attorney Sam Fritschner and Bond Counsel Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge and Rice have advised that the referendum must pass by a majority of eligible voters who vote on the bond question in the referendum. Only registered voters for the City of Hendersonville are permitted to vote.
"The advice given by bond counsel is based on Article V, Section 4 of the North Carolina Constitution, which provides that bonds subject to voter approval must be approved "by a majority of the voters of the unit [of local government] who vote thereon." The concept that the approval is of the qualified voters of the unit is followed in North Carolina General Statutes 159-49 ("When a vote of the people is required").
"After receiving recommendations from a steering committee that solicited public input, the City Council adopted a Master Plan for Berkeley Mills Park. The City Council voted unanimously to hold a referendum to allow the voters to decide on whether to fund the park improvements with bond funds. The referendum will ask citizens whether or not to approve a bond sale for improvements to Berkeley Mills Park in an amount not to exceed $6 million.
"At its July 11, 2013 meeting, the City Council adopted a Resolution Making Certain Findings and Determinations, and, Authorized the Filing of an Application with the Local Government Commission in Connection with the Proposed Authorization of Parks and Recreation Bonds. That meeting also served as notification to the public that if the city issues the entire $6 million of bonds, a tax increase of at least three cents will be needed to pay the debt service of $500,000 a year. The estimated tax increase was also a part of the required sworn statement of debt as a part of the application."
"For more information on the referendum and park improvements, please go to: http://www.cityofhendersonville.org/index.aspx?page=28&recordid=647&returnURL=%2findex.a spx."