Senate OKs bill ending Boone ETJ
by Anna Oakes
The Republican-led N.C. Senate on Thursday gave final approval to a local bill filed by Sen. Dan Soucek of Boone that would abolish his hometown's right to exercise extraterritorial jurisdiction.
The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 34-15 on second reading Wednesday, with Soucek and all fellow Republicans voting in favor. Two Democrats -- Sens. Brent Jackson of Autryville and Ben Clark, representing Cumberland and Hoke counties -- joined Republicans in voting for the local bill, while all other Democrats voted against the legislation. The count for Thursday's third reading vote was not yet published as of noon.
An ETJ, authorized by the state since 1959, 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. Boone has exercised ETJ authority since 1983. 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.
The bill, if successful, would take effect Jan. 1, 2015.
Senate Bill 865 will now proceed to the N.C. House of Representatives -- where a similar bill filed by Soucek and passed by the Senate two years ago ultimately died in committee. At that time, House representatives argued a bill affecting Boone's ETJ should be delayed until the broader issue of ETJ authority and state municipalities could be studied further, which has not yet happened.
The action is a repeat of local legislation filed by Soucek, a Republican, during the 2012 short session, which passed the N.C. Senate but failed to gain approval in the House.
As he did two years ago, Soucek said he introduced the bill to stand up for private property rights, maintaining that ETJ residents are subject to "regulation without representation." Town leaders say that thoughtful planning is important for future municipal growth areas to prevent unrestricted development that would place strains on infrastructure.
Boone Mayor Andy Ball and Boone Town Council members traveled to Raleigh last week to meet with Soucek and express their concerns about the bill, but Ball said Soucek did not agree to make any changes to the legislation.
Also on Thursday, the N.C. House spent several hours debating its version of Senate Bill 744, the state budget adjustment bill for fiscal year 2014-15. Following the Senate's passage of a budget bill May 31, the House released its $21.09 billion budget proposal on Tuesday, followed by House Appropriations Committee consideration on Wednesday and full House consideration on Thursday.