(MARTINSVILLE) - A capacity crowd crammed into a compact city hall Monday night in Martinsville, all for a public hearing on annexation.
The hearing was so full, some folks had to wait outside.
City officials formally introduced an annexation plan that would nearly double the size of Martinsville.
Jim Nicholls said he lives outside the city lines of Martinsville, and that's the way he likes it.
"We purposely moved here to be in a country setting, away from the city's regulations ... to hunt, to set off fireworks, to start a bonfire if we'd want to," said Nicholls.
But soon, his home could be part of Martinsville.
"I am totally against being forcibly annexed, due to the increased taxes," said Nicholls. "Bonfires will become illegal, raising a chicken will become illegal, ... shooting a gun, which I do safely now, would become illegal," he added.
Nichols isn't alone. At the public hearing, it was standing-room-only.
People spilled out into the hallway, and outside city hall. They went in one after the other to speak in front of City Council members.
One spoke in favor of the plan; the majority were against the plan.
"My property taxes will go up $700 a year," said Steve Stuard, another homeowner at the meeting. "The other big problem I have is the sewer. We have to hook onto the sewer."
That would cost him tens of thousands of dollars, he said.
As the plan stands, people living less than 300 feet from a sewer line would be required to connect to the city's system. Connection to the water system is not required.
Even the city's mayor knows the annexation is a tough issue to tackle, but he said it's worth it. The land zoned agricultural will remain agricultural, he said.
"The annexation primary goal is for economic development, to obtain areas and make them suitable for shovel ready sites. ... Right now there's no place for industry to locate in the city of Martinsville," said Phillip Deckard, Martinsville mayor.
Deckard said he understands property taxes will go up as well, but he said he's hoping the added benefits balance out the increase in taxes.
Council members did not vote Monday at the meeting. That will probably come at their July 16 meeting.
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