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Phillips annexation to be decided by Aug. referendum Voters can determine whether Union Bridge will double its population


UNION BRIDGE -- After several public hearings, numerous planning sessions and the Town Council's unanimous stamp of approval, voters will decide the fate of the Phillips property.

Annexation of the 110-acre site north of town, approved by the council in April, will go to referendum Aug. 3.

John Scott of Benedum Street delivered a letter of petition for referendum and 124 signatures to Town Hall Wednesday.

"I am not disappointed or surprised," said Mayor Perry L. Jones Jr. "I figured there would be enough signatures for a referendum."

If developed as planned, the 110 acres along Route 75 and Bark Hill Road could double the town's population of 917.

Organizers had until Friday to gather signatures of 20 percent of the town's 455 registered voters.

Once those signatures were verified, Jones issued a proclamation Thursday suspending the annexation, contingent on the results of the referendum.

Scott, a town resident for about three years, said eight canvassers gathered the signatures on a petition that read, "We are against the annexation and wish to bring the issue to referendum."

"I spoke to about 45 people, and only a few of them didn't sign the petition," he said. "Most seem well-informed and pleased with the opportunity to vote on this."

Deborah Doxzon, whose Bark Hill Road residence would be adjacent to the proposed development, said more people probably would have signed if the petition had not had limiting factors.

"Some wanted a referendum but didn't want to sign against the annexation," she said. "Others didn't want everyone to know how they would vote."

Although Scott said he opposes the annexation, he does not plan a campaign against it before Aug. 3.

"I want progress and development," he said. "I just don't think five [council] people should decide what 1,000 people have to live with here."

Scott also said the town is not ready for 440 more houses. If the property is not annexed, it will remain under the county Planning Department. Developers will be limited to building one house per acre instead of the four per acre that town planners would allow.

Scott said the Town Council is not prepared to handle a large development and should address the town's present problems first.

"We have a lot of low-income housing, numerous rentals not well cared for and the ugliest Main Street in the county," he said. "We need a visionary [council], not a reactionary."

Another canvasser, Yvette Viviani of Broadway, said she found many people opposed to the annexation and hoped they will vote in August. She also said more communication is needed between residents and officials.

"The council is new at all this development review," she said. "I am not against development, but we must have controlled growth."

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