House committee OKs ETJ bill 10-9
by Anna Oakes
An ETJ, authorized by the state since 1959, is a defined area in the county outside of city limits that is subject to the town's zoning regulations, including the type, density and location of land uses. Boone has exercised ETJ authority one mile outside town limits since 1983.
Introduced by Sen. Dan Soucek of Boone, Senate Bill 949 would eliminate Boone's ETJ powers effective June 30, 2013.
Republican state Rep. Jonathan Jordan of Jefferson, whose district includes Watauga and Ashe counties, did not attend the committee meeting.
Soucek, a Republican whose bill passed the N.C. Senate along partisan lines last week, was at the committee meeting to explain his bill.
“For decades we've heard lots and lots of complaints about the abuses of the ETJ. When you do this without any ability to annex, without any plans to annex, when it's physically not possible, it creates a regulatory limbo,” Soucek said to the committee. “People outside the (town limits) are having regulation without representation.”
Boone Mayor Loretta Clawson traveled to Raleigh for the third time in as many weeks to speak against the bill. She was accompanied by Boone Town Council Member Allan Scherlen and Boone ETJ resident Lee Stroupe.
“There are approximately 3,500 residents in Boone's ETJ, most of whom want the ETJ to protect their property,” Clawson told the committee. “No one has had the opportunity to study this. Boone is trying to assist in the orderly growth of the areas outside city limits and protect the health, safety and environment of town.”
Clawson expressed concerns that the legislation does not eliminate the town' ETJ boundary nor provides for a transfer of regulatory powers to another governmental body, leaving the area in “in a state of limbo.”
Rep. Stephen LaRoque, a Kinston Republican who chairs the House Select Committee on Extraterritorial Jurisdiction, said it would be a good idea to continue the committee's study of ETJs before acting on Soucek's bill.
Rep. Ruth Samuelson, a Republican from Charlotte, said she agrees that the issue of ETJ needs to be examined but that a study should be conducted before ETJ powers were taken from cities.
“I would request that rather than starting to do these piecemeal that you change your bill,” Samuelson said.
Republican Rep. Paul Stam of Apex said he would not support eliminating the ETJ in his county of Wake nor statewide, but that he could support a bill doing such in the mountains, where the costs of annexation (and extension of town services such as water and sewer) are high due to the terrain.
Another committee member asked if the bill was generated as a result of a dispute between the town of Boone and a developer.
Soucek responded that he has heard concerns from many different groups in the community, including churches and builders, but when pressed by the representative, Soucek said, “There has been a developer who has been very, very loud,” but that it was this developer who helped bring the issue to light.
Republican Rep. John Blust of Greensboro spoke up and stated that the Watauga County Commissioners were in support of the bill. When asked who had indicated this to him, Blust stated, “My brother, a Watauga County commissioner, told me the commissioners support it.” David Blust is a Watauga County commissioner.
Rep. Maggie Jeffus, a Democrat from Greensboro, argued for an unfavorable committee report.
“I think the bill sponsor said it was a very serious issue. To many, many people in Boone, they do not want it. I would urge you also to put this bill off for a while. It's very controversial and you shouldn't be doing it in the short session,” she said.
A motion to table the bill failed by a vote of 9-10, and a motion for a favorable committee report passed 10-9. The bill has been placed on the House calendar pursuant to rule 36(b), which requires a fiscal analysis of the bill to be filed and attached to the bill within two days.