Town of Waynesville & Lake Junaluska Assembly Annexation and Feasibility Study
Lake Junaluska Assembly (LJA) is a resort and residential community situated just outside of the Town of Waynesville in the mountains of Western North Carolina. For years, this community has managed and maintained its own public utilities and public works assets. LJA has however, been a long-time recipient of fire protection, water supply, and sewer treatment services from the Town of Waynesville. Like many rural communities, LJA has felt the financial pinch from the Great Recession. It has also been affected by changes in funding support from the United Methodist Church. While financially stable, LJA also faces the issue of owning aging infrastructure and not having large capital reserve funds to address its aging infrastructure repair and replacement needs. With a relatively small user base that is a mix of part-time residents, this situation is not one that can easily be addressed. With the Town of Waynesville already supporting some of LJA’s public service needs, it was only a natural fit for LJA to reach out to the Town to understand its interest in helping to address the problem. The Town and LJA begin meeting and discussing their options, one of which was annexation by the Town and assumption of LJA’s public utility and works assets. Leaders from both communities felt this could be a viable option to help ensure the residents had safe and reliable solutions for clean water, sewer, and transportation needs for years to come. As the two entities continued to consider this option, the Town and LJA needed to understand the key financial considerations that annexation would mean for the Town as well as the residents within both communities.
WR-Martin performed an annexation study and feasibility analysis to examine at the implications of annexation on both communities. During the course of the project, WR-Martin organized several meetings between Town and LJA stakeholders to develop a clear and uniform understanding about key variables, including the specific area to be annexed and specifically what services, personnel, responsibilities, and property would transfer. Furthermore, a comprehensive list of revenues and expenditures were compiled so the Town could understand how its general and water and sewer funds would be affected by the expansion of infrastructure obligations and increase in tax base, plus the changes to other revenues influenced by Town size and population. Equally as important, the impact upon LJA rates and service levels were carefully evaluated.
WR-Martin determined that an annexation would benefit the Town because new revenue from ad valorem taxes would exceed the additional personnel, operational, and capital costs. Additionally, the residents of the LJA would benefit from reductions to water, sewer, fire, and trash fees that offset increases to ad valorem taxes. A majority vote by both area residents was required in order for the annexation to proceed and related legislation is currently being considered by State representatives.