The quiet bedroom community of Castle Hayne doesn’t have a history that’s as sleepy as one would imagine. There really was a castle in the northeast portion of what is now New Hanover County, once owned by Captain Roger Haynes.
In the 18th century, Haynes purchased 1,000 acres of land for a little over 100 pounds of sterling silver. Today, that amount would probably get him one, maybe two acres. That’s not much room for the gargantuan Georgian-style home he built in the 1730s.
Haynes was the king of his own plantation until his death in 1739. However, his mansion (which has since burned down), was such an integral part of the area that the train depot adopted the name Castle Hayne for its locale, after Haynes’ Castle. Eventually, Hugh MacRae, a man key to the development of southeastern North Carolina, brought Dutch immigrants to Castle Hayne. There the settlers raised daffodils and gladioli on several bulb farms.
Today, I-40 passersby usually overlook Castle Hayne as a small town with little to offer along their way to Wilmington or Raleigh. They’d be wrong, though. Castle Hayne is not yet a legal town (and they still have great florists!), but the area’s Steering Committee is looking to change that as they fight to incorporate the suburban town.
Making it clear that the move is not out of fear of annexation, chairman Tom Radewicz claims there were two other serious attempts to incorporate in the past. “A bill was introduced in 1997 and another in 1999,” he explains. “They didn’t make it far in [the North Carolina] General Assembly, but we have always been Castle Hayne, and we’ve been wanting to do this for the past 50 years.”
Senate Bill 237 (short title: “Incorporate Castle Hayne”) was introduced by NC Senator Thom Goolsby on March 7, 2011. It unanimously passed the Senate on June 7 and was ratified on June 17. All the Steering Committee has to do now is make sure the registered voters within the limits of the proposed town will choose to incorporate by way of referendum on November 8, when all other municipalities hold their elections.
“We had to get at least 15 percent of registered voters to sign a petition certified by the Board of Elections to send to Raleigh,” Radewicz says. “We didn’t even get to half the people because we only had one month to work on the petition process, but 645 signed. Of those, 536 were properly certified. That’s 27.55 percent.”
Thus, the Steering Committee is fairly confident the referendum will pass. Yet, they’ve covered their basis by molding their plan of action should voters say no.
“If the initiative fails at the voter booth,” Radewicz muses, “then as far as I’m concerned, I’m going to go home, sit down in my chair and rest for the remainder of my life.
“Based on the recent changes in annexation laws, people may feel more comfortable saying we won’t be annexed,” he continues, although still stressing his desire to incorporate has little to do with annexation. “They’ll [Castle Hayne residents] want to do nothing and let life go on as it is.”
The chairman also explains that the Castle Hayne location is unlikely real estate for Wilmington, versus other prime areas like Monkey Junction, which is in its own annexation battle these days. “We have little water and sewer infrastructure,” Radewicz says. “We’ve got just enough to service the Department of Transportation and the new Holly Shelter schools. We have some infrastructure available to tap into but no funding. Any future development would have to be a private endeavor.”
Based on the numbers Radewicz crunched, he says annexation of Castle Hayne would be an expensive process for Wilmington. The law says the city must provide the full line of services to any annexed area, including fire, water, road repairs, police, trash, etc., and the tax revenue just isn’t there. “With 3,200 people in 12 square miles, we’ve got about $27 million worth of taxable property. In contrast, Kure Beach’s full-time residency is about half the amount in one square mile, and with the hotels and condos, their taxable property is worth about $2.5 billion.”
As for Radewicz’s plans, should the referendum pass, the town must immediately work to provide four services of the full line to its citizens. The Steering Committee, members of which could become the town council, decided upon 1.) law enforcement; 2.) fire services; 3.) planning and zoning; and 4.) street lighting.
“These are the easiest and least expensive to us of the eight choices,” the chairman and possible future mayor claims. “The rest will come as the people want it. If people want water and sewer immediately, we will need to find some way to pay for it.”
The committee will not automatically become the council, however. From July 1 until July 15, people may register to run for a council seat. In November registered voters will be able to decide the proposed town council, which will go into effect if the referendum is voted through as well.
Radewicz and his team have dedicated several years’ hard work to get to this point. “I could think of a half a dozen good reasons for why we want to do this,” Radewicz shares. “But the most important is self-determination. We want to charter our own course. We want to plan our own destiny.”