To the great consternation of many residents in Summerfield, it’s now official: farmer and developer David Couch has won his battle to remove nearly 1,000 acres from the town in order to build a large residential and mixed-use development that he has been fighting with town leaders over for years.

On Thursday, June 27, the NC House of Representatives took the final vote to approve the de-annexation of the land from the town.

Summerfield covers about 27 square miles and has roughly 11,000 residents.

Some Summerfield residents have fought very hard to keep the town relatively free from development over the years, and it was an inability of Couch and town leaders to come to an agreement about the nature and density of the proposed development that led Couch to seek relief from the state legislature.

On July 1, that land will become part of unincorporated Guilford County, which will have much fewer restrictions on the project than Couch has been facing from the town.

So, those who fought the effort may now end up with something they dislike much more than they would have if the town had been able to reach a compromise with Couch.

This week’s two NC House debates over the bill showed that, even though the measure passed by a large margin, many members of the House were very unhappy with the way the process unfolded. The NC Senate had taken an unrelated bill that the House had previously approved and tacked the de-annexation bill onto it, which caused consternation to many House members – even some who, in the end, voted in favor of the bill.

Some House members complained that an item that controversial should have been a stand-alone bill while others said that it was very unfair of the Senate to tack the item onto a previously approved bill – which meant the Summerfield issue never went through the committee process in the House.

Some who voted for the bill said they were doing so because there was some very good legislation in it, though they lamented the fact that, in order to pass that legislation, they had to also vote on the Summerfield de-annexation issue.

The House members received hundreds of calls and emails leading up to the vote – almost all opposing the de-annexation – and some Summerfield residents and others held a public protest in Raleigh on Wednesday, June 26.

The move to de-annex the land was spearheaded by NC Sen. Phil Berger, who is a friend of Couch. Many critics of the action say Berger did this as a favor for Couch because Couch has made substantial campaign contributions to Berger. However, one source very close to the negotiations who wished to remain anonymous said it was his belief that Berger’s true reason was the one Berger keeps stating publicly.

“I talked with him about this personally and I believe he is sincerely concerned about the lack of housing in the area,” the source said.

Greensboro, Guilford County and the surrounding areas are landing medium and large business projects like crazy, which is likely to mean an influx of people in the future – and housing prices have been going up, as has the overall cost of buying a house since interest rates have shot up as well.

Berger has said repeatedly that Summerfield has been so restrictive in its development ordinances that the town severely limits a person’s right to put their property to its highest and best use. He has also said that more and varied housing is badly needed in that area.

The source said that the House votes – there were two votes to complete the process this week – would have been much closer had not the town seemed so dysfunctional at the present time.  Recently, the entire town staff resigned in protest of the way that long-time Town Manager Scott Whitaker was let go by a majority of the Town Council.

“I think when they saw that, it helped some of them make their decision,” the source said of the town staff resigning.

In the weeks before the NC Legislature finally approved the move, Summerfield councilmembers were picking up trash in town parks and volunteers were cleaning the public bathrooms.

During the House debates, some proponents of de-annexation questioned why Summerfield was even a town since, they claimed, it provides so few services to its citizens.

Some have argued that Summerfield incorporated as a town for one reason and one reason alone – so the area wouldn’t become part of Greensboro.