Halifax County Settles Lawsuit with Brandy Creek Residents

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On Monday, December 2, 2013, the Halifax Board of County Commissioners voted to approve a settlement to resolve an ongoing lawsuit with the residents of the Brandy Creek. Gary et al. v. Halifax County, was scheduled to go to trial in January. The settlement is a milestone in the residents’ struggle for justice following the failed plans to develop the Carolina Crossroads entertainment district and the Roanoke Rapids Theater in their neighborhood. The community was represented by the UNC Center for Civil Rights and Halifax County attorney Bettina Roberts-Flood.

The case focused on the county’s 2007 property tax revaluation, which increased land values in Brandy Creek by an average of 800% and as high as 1400%, while the rest of the county went up approximately 20%. The resulting property tax bills created an intense hardship for residents, forcing many to forgo everyday expenses like groceries and medical care. Those who had retired went back to work, paychecks and bank accounts were garnished by the county, and several had to take out high interest rate loans to pay the tax bills to avoid losing their homes.

Despite the community’s successes, residents still live with the impacts of the failure of Carolina Crossroads. A real estate company that bought several parcels in 2006 evicted the tenants who had been living there for years, resulting in the loss of almost half of the neighborhood. Now, that land remains vacant and overgrown, an unsightly haven for rodents and snakes that severely affects the quality of life in Brandy Creek. As community leader Louise Williams put it, “Everyone in Halifax got a bad deal, but we got the worst part.”

The residents filed the lawsuit against Halifax County, Roanoke Rapids, and Weldon City Schools, since all three local governments received a portion of the illegally inflated property taxes. Roanoke Rapids and Weldon were later dismissed from the suit but signed an agreement with the county that each would be responsible for its proportionate share of any judgment or settlement. The settlement, which was made by the county to avoid future litigation expenses, totals $42,000; the city will be accountable to the county for approximately 42% of that amount and the school district for 12%.

Posted by Jennifer Watson Marsh on Wed. December 11, 2013 12:01 PM
Categories: Annexation, Community Inclusion, Halifax County, Halifax Taxes
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