City-county consolidation is the merger of two governments – a county and the largest city in that county. The southeastern United States has witnessed more city-county consolidations than other regions of the county, with merged governments in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. [(Here is a listing of consolidated city-counties in the United States.)] There have been eight significant efforts at city-county consolidation in North Carolina since 1970, efforts that progressed as far as the creation of a special commission to study and propose a plan for consolidation and the writing by that commission of a proposed charter for a consolidated government. None of these efforts succeeded. Six of the eight were defeated in referendums held among the county’s voters, while the other two – the most recent – were terminated by the existing city and county governing boards after a charter was drafted but before a referendum could be held. Here are the eight efforts:

Charlotte and Mecklenburg County I - 1969-1971
Wilmington and New Hanover County I - 1970-1973
Durham and Durham County I - 1971-1974
Asheville and Buncombe County - 1981-1982
Wilmington and New Hanover County II - 1984-1987
Wilmington and New Hanover County III - 1995
Charlotte and Mecklenburg County II - 1994-1996
Durham and Durham County II - 1999-2000

Despite this history of failure, North Carolina citizens and political and business leaders continue to be interested in consolidation. For example, local leaders in both New Hanover County and Cumberland County commissioned preliminary studies of consolidation in the decade after 2000, but neither effort progressed to creation of a charter commission.

This website is focused on city-county consolidation in North Carolina. It is intended to be a resource for government and community leaders and for citizens who are interested in city-county consolidation – to explain what city-county consolidation entails and, using the eight North Carolina efforts as context, to explain how a proposal for consolidation might be developed, what the issues are likely to be, and why city-county consolidation has proved so difficult to accomplish in this state.

The website is divided into three parts. Part 1 deals with North Carolina city-county consolidation as a general matter – what it means, how to go about developing a proposal, important substantive issues that must be addressed in a consolidation process, and political issues that make consolidation difficult. Throughout this part, the experiences from the eight significant North Carolina efforts will be used to illuminate the discussion. This section also includes two statutes that are fundamental for any consolidation effort.

Part 2 turns to the eight efforts specifically, with a section for each of the eight. Each section begins with a very short summary of the highlights of the consolidation proposal, followed by a brief summary of the effort and its outcome; most of these second sorts of summaries were prepared shortly after the effort in question. Each section then sets out basic documents from the effort – the action, legislative or local, that created the charter commission; the charter prepared by the charter commission; any report prepared by the charter commission; and any other important documents.

Part 3 briefly addresses city-county consolidation on the national level. It includes a list of consolidation efforts and a bibliography of books and articles about city-county consolidation.

Faculty Coordinator

individual image for Frayda S. Bluestein
Professor of Public Law and Government