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Boone Town Council Discusses ETJ, Annexation and Water; Directs Staff To Cease New Connections in ETJ

See how the ETJ and the viewshed correlate.
See how the ETJ and the viewshed correlate.

By Jesse Wood

July 3, 2014. Mayor Andy Ball, the Boone Town Council and town staff discussed its options – and that of residents in the soon-to-be abolished extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) – regarding the recent legislation that will eliminate Boone’s ETJ on Jan. 1, 2015.

During the Tuesday meeting, council members also received a lesson on voluntary (contiguous or satellite) and forced annexation, which are methods to retain communities under the town’s jurisdiction, from the town planning staff. More than 1,000 single-family homes exist in the ETJ, one council member noted.

“Annexations are problematic, more difficult than they used to be. Contiguous annexations are simpler. If voluntary, much simpler. If a forced annexation, it’s a little more complex but not impossible,” Planning Director Bill Bailey said. “The possibility of satellite annexation, they are a little problematic in that they’ve got to be voluntary and have 100 percent of the people in the area, typically a subdivision, agree to it.”

Bailey added that subdivisions become a key factor in any annexation discussion and that they typically have to be forced annexed because its rare to have 100 percent of residents in a community agree.

“It’s bleak but not impossible,” Bailey said of satellite annexations.

Town Attorney Sam Furgiuele expressed caution with forced annexations because the N.C. General Assembly has “been quite active” de-annexing properties after receiving complaints. If the town were to engage in forced annexations and the N.C. General Assembly de-annexed the property, the town would likely end up in court for five to six years before the N.C. Supreme Court finally settles the matter.

“They may uphold the law, and if they do, you may have gone down an expensive, complicated path for no result at all,” Furgiuele said.

Planning Development Coordinator Jane Shook said that folks that want their property annexed into the town must petition the town by filling out an application and providing a survey of the property in relation to the city limits.

“Usually we have not processed any that aren’t connected to a water and sewer request,” Shook said.

Shook added that if the town eventually approves the annexation, the whole process takes about three months for it to become effective.

Council members noted that they would consider waiving the petition fee in light of Sen. Dan Soucek’s legislation that was approved last month in the N.C. General Assembly. The annexation petition fee is $350.

When asked by a council member on what could happen to reverse the new legislation, Furgiuele said members of the N.C. General Assembly could vote to undo the legislation (which isn’t likely) or the town could attempt to “invalidate the action” in court through a lawsuit.

“It would be the first time an appellate court or lower court had considered the question. It’s harder to answer any of these questions with a full assurance [because what] usually guides lower courts are the decision of appellate courts,” Furgiuele said.

Bailey added, “There’s nothing to go by. We’ll be swimming in the dark.”

Mayor Ball mentioned a legal opinion is necessary ASAP and that opinion will be prepared for council come the July or August monthly meeting. Council then discussed legal matters with this issue and other separate matters in closed session.

ETJ Water Connections

On Wednesday, the Boone Town Council directed staff to cease all in-house approvals for new connections for water in the ETJ – pending a discussion with the Water Use Committee on the same topic later this month. This direction took place after the council came out of closed session Wednesday.

While the above direction just consisted of new connections, Ball said that the Water Use Committee and the Boone Town Council will discuss both existing and new connections at the same meeting, too.

Once the bill looked as if it was heading toward passage in the legislature, Ball and the town released a statement, noting disappointment with the bill and also expressing that the town was going to reconsider water services outside of the town’s limits.

This move was then called “petty” and “vindictive” by Watauga Board of Commissioner Chair Nathan Miller, whose comments were then echoed by Soucek. Read that article here: https://www.hcpress.com/news/water-becomes-part-of-the-etj-controversy-in-boone.html

The Water Use Committee meeting for July hasn’t been set yet, but Ball said it would take place before the Boone Town Council’s regularly scheduled July meeting.

The Boone Town Council will then discuss the topic at its meeting.

For some background on this issue, click here and scroll down to peruse numerous articles.