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LETTERS / Concerns About Elimination of Boone’s ETJ

Aug. 18, 2014.

Dear Editor and fellow Wataugans: I grew up in Boone, and live in my family home that was built in 1968 in a neighborhood that has since 1983 enjoyed the numerous protections of Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ). To say that the antidemocratic and disingenuous maneuvering by Senator Soucek and Representative Jordan to summarily strip Boone and Watauga County of its ETJ upsets my family (and many neighbors with whom I’ve talked) is an understatement. It is by far the antidemocratic process by which Soucek and Jordan rammed through legislation in Raleigh— singling out our one community statewide and putting ETJ homeowners in an extremely vulnerable position—that upsets me most. Their arrogant, unethical behaviour exemplifies politicians at their most devious and damaging.

Yet, putting aside the maddening antidemocratic politicking on their part, I’ve really been trying to understand their thinking. Why would Soucek and Jordan and most Republicans in the NC legislature think this legislative move is in the best interests of the approximately 3,500 constituents in Boone’s ETJ (even though there was zero process for determining ETJ residents’ opinions)? What’s in it for me, my family, and neighbors?

Word has it that a small minority of large property owners do in fact support the elimination of our ETJ. They must know better than I the benefits that the General Assembly in Raleigh has imposed upon us by abolishing our ETJ. I am pretty sure they stand to benefit handsomely from this sly move (and must also support Soucek’s and Jordan’s electoral ambitions). Maybe they know something I don’t about the possibilities for my own sweet home and neighborhood…. Imagine with me a few possible consequences I/we might enjoy with the ETJ having been stripped away by the State of NC.

Why might a property owner not want to have their land-holdings protected by the ETJ? Might they wish to sell or use their property for polluting industries—maybe asphalt plants, cement manufacturing, or incinerators? (Ah, just think of the air quality—the smell and the noise and the heavy vehicle traffic in the neighborhood….) Or maybe they wish to impose or expand their extractive industry into certain ETJ neighborhoods—like Radford Quarries is already doing (before ETJ protections officially end) in the Sunny Knoll neighborhood—destabilizing foundations of family homes and stirring up a whirlwind of particulate matter—thick, heavy dust—that will do wonders for respiratory systems—especially for kids and the elderly downwind. I have heard that Radford Quarries’ attorney and Watauga County Commissioner Chair Nathan Miller are one and the same person—in which case, Mr. Miller might be able to enlighten us on this. (Chairman Miller: Is this true, and if so, how is it not a conflict of interest for you to vote for the fate of the current ETJ?)

Maybe certain people have visions of large-scale housing developments dancing in their heads—like the lovely apartment complex precariously perched above Watauga Village Shopping Center, or the so-called Cottages that have ravaged a whole mountain at the end of Poplar Grove Road, leaving property owners at the mountain’s foot vulnerable to floods andlandslides. And just think of the late-night parties to which the neighborhood could be privy (like it or not)! A bonus is we will all have fewer trees blocking the view of potential hillside erosion—and less wildlife, like those pesky songbirds. I’m sure visitors who enjoy our community and contribute significantly to our tourist economy will love these changes, too. More gouges in the mountains. More large, ugly, shoddily-constructed apartment buildings. More flashing signs. More pavement. Yet more traffic—and more noise and exhaust from traffic. I’ve heard tourists secretly think we have too much beauty, clean air, and peace on our hands here in Watauga.

And then there is the abundance of fresh water to go around….

I think I am beginning to see the logic in certain individuals’ claims to property rights (for their own large holdings and to hell with the rest of us who can’t afford to buy our own politicians). I think I’m beginning to understand all the many ways that could affect the value of my and my neighbors’ homes—not only monetarily, but as refuge to enjoy, where I feel safe and secure, and where I know my neighbors are looking out for me and my family, as we do for them!

The fate of the ETJ, at least for now, is in the hands of our county commissioners. If, like me, you have concerns and want to have input into the fate of our ETJ neighborhoods, please join me and other concerned ETJ residents with Watauga Citizens for Local Control at a public hearing Tuesday, August 19th at 5:30 pm, Watauga Country Commissioners’ meeting, Watauga Co. Courthouse, 814 W. King St., Boone.

P.S. This antidemocratic measure shoved through the NC legislature by Senator Soucek and Rep. Jordan actually affects ALL of us in Watauga County, not just those of us living and owning homes in the ETJ. So, please consider coming to this public hearing and supporting those of us standing up for democracy, property rights, and the protections needed to minimize dangerous pollution; irresponsible extraction and management of resources; and runaway development in our beautiful community. Thanks!

Susan F. Reed