Boone ETJ bill pulled from Senate floor
by Anna Oakes
Senate Bill 949 would eliminate the town of Boone's ETJ powers, which it has exercised since 1983, effective June 30, 2013. The bill was scheduled for consideration during the Senate session that convened at 7 p.m. Monday evening. Instead, the bill was withdrawn from the calendar and re-referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.
Senate Bill 949 narrowly received approval from the Senate Committee on State and Local Government June 7. Speaking immediately after that committee meeting, the bill's primary sponsor, Sen. Dan Soucek of Boone, said he did not expect the bill to be reviewed by any other committees and that it would be considered by the full Senate early this week.
Speaking by email Tuesday, Soucek said he requested that the bill be withdrawn from the Senate calendar Monday because he left Raleigh to attend a funeral.
"I returned to Raleigh this morning and am hopeful that the bill will be placed back on the calendar as soon as the hectic budget schedule allows," Soucek said.
Citizens opposed to Senate Bill 949 recently launched a website, http://stayscrunchyinmilk.com/ncsenate, to organize calls and emails to all senators urging them to vote against the bill and to Soucek, urging him to withdraw the bill.
An email response from Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger's office on Tuesday stated, "Our office has received a number of emails in regard to SB 949, and Sen. Berger is aware that there are outstanding areas of concern. As you may have heard, the measure has been sent back to the Senate Finance Committee for further review."
Since 1959, North Carolina towns of more than 2,500 in population have had authority to create extraterritorial jurisdictions up to one mile outside city limits. An ETJ is a defined area subject to a town's land use (zoning) regulations, including the types of property uses permitted.
The UNC School of Government estimates that about three-fifths of municipalities in the state exercise ETJ powers.
Boone ETJ residents cannot vote in town elections, do not pay town taxes and do not receive town services (except for about 300 who receive water and/or sewer services), but Boone ETJ residents are appointed by the Watauga County Board of Commissioners to serve on the town's Board of Adjustment and Planning Commission.
Soucek said he introduced the bill to call attention to clear abuses by the town of Boone in its ETJ, stating it is unfair for the town to extend its ETJ to areas it cannot feasibly annex or provide with services anytime soon, leaving property owners in limbo.
Boone Mayor Loretta Clawson, the Boone Water Use Committee and residents of the Seven Oaks subdivision " a neighborhood in Boone's ETJ " have been vocal opponents of the bill.