House committee reverses Boone ETJ vote
by Anna Oakes
One day after the N.C. House Committee on Government did not approve a favorable report on Senate Bill 865, the bill to abolish Boone's extraterritorial jurisdiction, the bill was returned to the committee's agenda on Tuesday, when it received a favorable report by an 18-16 vote.
Because of Tuesday's action, the bill will advance to the full House floor for consideration.
Several committee members questioned why the bill returned to the committee calendar Tuesday after Monday's motion failed by a 12-15 vote, but legislative staff clarified that the bill could be considered again because the committee did not vote to give it an unfavorable report.
Absent from Tuesday's vote were two committee members, Democratic Rep. Elmer Floyd and Republican Rep. Stephen M. Ross, who voted against the bill on Monday, as well as one member, Republican Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, who voted in favor. Republican Rep. Tim Moffitt was absent from both Monday and Tuesday's votes.
Republican Rep. John Faircloth noted that although he supports ETJ authority "if it's used correctly" that he had looked into the matter further since Monday and had concluded that "it's been improperly used" in Boone. He switched his vote to a "yes" for the bill on Tuesday after voting against the legislation Monday.
Republican Sen. Dan Soucek of Boone introduced the bill, which passed the N.C. Senate on June 12. Rep. Jonathan Jordan of Jefferson spoke to the committee in support of S865 as a member of the local delegation.
Jordan told the committee that the real reason for having an ETJ is for municipal expansion, for which the town of Boone has no immediate plans.
"They use it as control, and that is all," Jordan said. "Remove it, and give these citizens currently under regulation without any representation a voice."
Rep. Susan C. Fisher, a Democratic committee member, suggested that the issue continued to be discussed and worked out at the local level. Another committee member suggested an amendment that would abolish the ETJ only upon the establishment of countywide zoning, but Soucek would not agree to make that amendment.
An ETJ is a defined area in the county outside of city limits that is subject to a city's zoning regulations, including the type, density and location of land uses. ETJ residents cannot vote in town elections, do not pay town taxes and do not receive town services, but residents of the ETJ serve on the town's Board of Adjustment and Planning Commission.
Soucek filed a similar bill two years ago. The bill passed the N.C. Senate but ultimately died in a House committee, with House representatives at that time arguing a bill affecting Boone's ETJ should be delayed until the broader issue of ETJ authority could be studied statewide.