Boone water group opposes ETJ bill
by Anna Oakes
Since 1959, all North Carolina municipalities with populations exceeding 2,500 have had statutory authority to regulate land use in areas within one mile outside of town limits. These areas, referred to as extraterritorial jurisdictions, are subject to a town's zoning regulations, which place specific restrictions on the way land can be used and the types of property uses permitted.
The committee also voted to approve a recommendation to the Boone Town Council that, should Senate Bill 949 pass, the town should immediately suspend all new water connections or extensions into areas outside the Boone town limits.
Although the town has no obligation to extend water and sewer service outside of its borders, the town's ordinances permit the extension of services outside town limits if requested. Those requesting water and sewer service must petition the town for voluntary annexation, but the town does not always proceed with annexation immediately.
Last year, the Boone Town Council voted to allow staff to approve the allocation of water requests in the ETJ up to 500 gallons per day without council review.
Boone Public Utilities Director Rick Miller said the town currently has about 375 water and sewer, water-only or sewer-only customers outside of town limits, of which 315 are in the ETJ.
“We have preferably wanted to take our water into areas that are zoned,” said Boone Mayor Loretta Clawson.
Clawson and all five Boone Town Council members are members of the Water Use Committee.
Properties connected to the town's water system but not compliant with its regulations, including storm water management rules, could have major impacts on the town, Councilwoman Lynne Mason said.
“You don't run water and sewer into areas that aren't zoned unless you're asking for total chaos and no regulations,” said Pam Williamson, a Water Use Committee member.
Committee Member Patrick Beville cast the lone dissenting vote on the motion, arguing it was inappropriate for the Water Use Committee to act preemptively before the bill passed or failed. He said little about the town's current water allocation procedures would change if the bill passed.
“There is nothing this law would change that would require the town to provide water to an entity it doesn't want to,” Beville said. “I feel like we're reacting to something that hasn't happened yet.
“A moratorium sounds like bully politics,” he said. “It's the same thing the county has done in their approach to us: ‘If you're going to do this, then we're going to do this.' It should be fought politically by the town council. This is the Water Committee.”
Discussion ensued over whether the town could enforce its land use regulations as part of the conditions of approved water and sewer requests.
Town attorney Sam Furgiuele said it is not clear whether the legislation would bar the town from enforcing its regulations in this way.
“I think you will find the answer in the courts,” he said.
A committee member asked about the “abuses” in the ETJ to which Soucek referred in an interview with the Watauga Democrat.
Bill Bailey has been Boone's Planning & Inspections Department director since February 2010.
“For the most part … I get very few complaints. It's usually a complaint of a neighbor against another neighbor,” Bailey responded. “There are a few businesses who don't comply or don't want to comply, and we have issues with those.”
Senate Bill 949 has been referred to the Senate Committee on State and Local Government. The committee is scheduled to consider the bill during a meeting that begins at 11 a.m. on Thursday, June 7.
For more information about Senate Bill 949, visit http://bit.ly/MdzZX5.