County sets public hearing on ETJ picks
by Kellen Short
Watauga County commissioners voted Tuesday to hold a public hearing on three appointees from the extraterritorial jurisdiction to Boone boards and commissions -- despite maintaining that it was not necessary.
Citing the need to "extend an olive branch," the board voted 4-1 to hold a hearing Oct. 15 on plans to again name Dale Greene to the Boone Board of Adjustment and Frank Bolick and Jon Tate to the Boone Planning Commission.
The ETJ is a defined area outside town limits that is subject to the town's zoning regulations but whose residents do not pay town taxes and cannot vote in town elections. By law, county commissioners must appoint residents of Boone's ETJ to serve on those two boards.
Commissioners voted in July and August to appoint the three, but only Tate has been sworn in.
Boone Town Manager Greg Young wrote in a Sept. 23 letter that the Town Council would not accept the appointments of Greene and Bolick and would reconsider allowing Tate to continue serving after he was "inadvertently" accepted.
Town staff said in interviews last week that the county violated the Boone Unified Development Ordinance when it appointed the members -- who were not Town Council recommendations -- without holding a public hearing.
The county believes the UDO indicates a public hearing would be needed only if the county rejects the town's recommendations, which did not occur in this case, County Manager Deron Geouque said.
County Attorney Stacy "Four" Eggers added that it was his opinion that the public hearing clause in Boone's UDO exceeded what is allowed by state statute.
"The town of Boone doesn't understand how to comprehend North Carolina general statute, nor their own ordinances," Chairman Nathan Miller said.
Miller advocated that the county file a civil lawsuit and seek an injunction to prevent the boards from meeting until the ETJ representatives were seated. Upon questioning from Commissioner John Welch, Miller said he thought such a court action would cost between $3,000 and $5,000.
Commissioner Perry Yates offered a less severe measure, suggesting that the county hold a public hearing as requested while also calling for a joint open meeting with the Boone Town Council to seek clarity on ETJ appointments.
"I'm tired of the mess between the county and the town," Yates said. " ... Even though we disagree with what they've asked us to do, we're offering an olive branch here."
The board voted 4-1, with Miller opposed, to set a public hearing for 6 p.m. Oct. 15 and to ask Geouque to draft a letter to the town asking for a meeting within 30 days.
"Surely to goodness
we can solve something like this without waiting another six months and going to court over it,"
The board also tabled a decision on an ETJ alternate position for the Boone Board of Adjustment until Oct. 15, as the only person other person who has expressed interest so far, Wayne Greene, is a county resident and not an ETJ resident.