Wilmington, NC – Ready to be a town, or still just a community? Hampstead's future goes on the ballot next Tuesday.
Members of the pro-incorporation group Join Our Town say the issue is one of self-determination, whether the decisions that will affect life in Hampstead are made there.
Incorporation proponent Nicholas Pryor says he's tired of driving to the county seat in Burgaw to discuss local issues.
"If we don't make a concerted to manage our own development, the same thing is going to happen to us as, as happened, I'm afraid, to Wilmington."
But many of the opponents of Hampstead's incorporation say it's too soon for the area to become a town and warn that municipal taxes could rise in future years.
Save our Community, the group spearheading the opposition, says it may be feasible at some future time, but gives many different reasons for why that time isn't now. The group's president, Al Sidbury, says the county has looked after the area well and he worries that a town government might stifle growth.
"And I am afraid that if this group gets control, things are going to be made so difficult that you're not going to see future businesses standing in line to come to Hampstead."
The question of incorporation goes back decades in Hampstead, but the area's state legislators, who had to seek General Assembly approval for the referendum, say whatever the outcome, this is the last time residents will get to vote on it for a good while.
It comes up, comes to the surface and then dies back down, and just sort of a cyclical thing," Representative Carolyn Justice said in an earlier interview. "And Senator [R.C.] Soles and I pretty much determined it was time to get this on a ballet and put this issue to rest."
Hampstead voters get their chance help put the issue to bed on Election Day next Tuesday. If the measure passes, it will not only create the town's boundaries but also set its government and four of its first five interim council members, drawn from both sides of the debate, who will select someone to fill the fifth seat.
Pender County has provided information about the incorporation referendum here.
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