By Jesse Wood
House Bill 875, which could impact the Town of Boone’s ability to secure easements along the transmission-line route for the proposed raw water intake system near Todd, just slid into the N.C. Senate moments before the crossover deadline on April 30.
N.C. Rep. Jonathan Jordan, who represents Ashe and Watauga counties, sponsored the bill that would require a municipality to receive consent of the county commissioners if going outside of the town limits and into the county to obtain properties by eminent domain. The bill is currently in the Senate’s rules and operations committee. If it passes the Senate, the law becomes effective immediately and affects condemnations on or after the passage date.
In March, the Town of Boone began notifying landowners along the transmission-line route that the municipality was seeking property easements and that if a settlement couldn’t be negotiated, “the only option for the Town of Boone would be to acquire the water line easement through Eminent Domain.”
When asked about the water intake project in relation to this bill, Jordan said that it wasn’t his intention to kill the project with H.B. 875. He also said he didn’t think this bill would stop the water intake project permanently.
Jordan said that he decided to spearhead this bill because “folks land is going to be condemned by the Town of Boone and they don’t have any say in the matter.” He added that he also wanted to “bring the commissioners into the discussion” and force the Town of Boone into transparency.
“Boone is not very transparent,” Jordan said. “Anything done to have them discuss things out in the open is a good thing.”
In 2012, Jordan sponsored another bill aimed at the water intake project. The unsuccessful “kill bill” that year attempted to stop the reclassification of the South Fork of the New River needed to draw water out of the river with the intake system.
When the eminent domain bill was originally drafted earlier this month, the bill was amended to only affect Ashe and Watauga counties – instead all 100 counties in the state.
“The original version … was not received well. There were a lot places where a lot of city folks said projects would not go ahead with county commissioners and it was defeated in statewide form,” Jordan said.
On Friday afternoon, Mayor Andy Ball released this statement:
“We are disappointed that Rep. Jordan has again taken direct aim at our water infrastructure project, which has seen several delays largely due to this type of legislative interference. Unfortunately, this bill, if passed by the Senate, is another regulation handed down from Raleigh that hinders the town’s goals of delivering essential public services and creating conditions to support more jobs in Watauga County. The Boone Area Chamber of Commerce has weighed in resolving support for this project, its members recognizing the need for available water to spur redevelopment and continued economic growth.
“If Rep. Jordan is successful in his efforts to stop the water infrastructure project, Boone will be a very different place years down the road. We will not be able to sustain the pace of redevelopment currently underway, and will be forced to deny water to good projects of all sizes, essentially suffocating our local economy, leading to job losses and vacant storefronts. The Boone Town Council has a different vision for the future of our community, and intends to pursue this project as part of that vision along with other beneficiaries of the project including Watauga County, the Town of Blowing Rock and Appalachian State University.”
In his statement above, Ball referenced the Blowing Rock and Boone Area chamber of commerces’ support of the water intake. Below are two letters, one recent and another from last summer, of the chambers penning a letter to Jordan on the matter of the intake:
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