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LETTERS / ETJ Situation Not A Dem, GOP Issue

July 8, 2014. 

To:  The Editor

From:  Phil Templeton

A North Carolina law implemented by the Town of Boone in 1983 provides for Boone to zone and regulate areas immediately outside the town limits (known as Extraterritorial Jurisdiction areas or the ETJ).  Owners of property in the ETJ areas had little choice or say so in this matter.  Ironically, the land area now within the Boone ETJ and controlled by the town has become larger than the area within the Boone town limits.

It was the intent of this legislation that a town would work toward providing benefits such as water and sewer service, garbage pick-up and police and fire protection to properties within the ETJ.  The expectation being that those areas would be zoned and annexed by the town and the property owners could then vote for town officials.  It was never the intent that towns could indefinitely impose zoning rules and regulations on ETJ properties without annexing those areas and providing the services listed above.  For the past 30 years, residents of the ETJ have lived under the town’s regulations. Most were denied the basic services provided to town property owners and all were denied the right to vote in the elections for mayor and town council!

Unfortunately, the Boone Town Council has consistently abused the intent of the ETJ legislation by imposing unreasonable rules and regulations on many ETJ properties, charging double rates for water and sewer services for properties outside the town limits and by selectively and inconsistently denying or approving requests for water and sewer hookups and permits.   The town has routinely ignored the suggestions and complaints from ETJ property owners who are impacted by unfair or unreasonable regulations on their properties while having only minimal representation on town boards.  As a consequence, the North Carolina General Assembly recently passed legislation removing Boone’s authority over the ETJ areas.

This law becomes effective January 1, 2015 and, as expected, there has been a barrage of half-truths, propaganda and hysterical warnings from Boone’s political malcontents.  Their message to all who will listen is “mega developers will soon destroy our county and town”.  (They should consider the fact that the huge apartment project above Wal-Mart was approved by the Boone Town Council and the fact that the “mega development” on the hill tops off Poplar Grove road could have been built out of sight on the former Watauga High School property had the town council provided the necessary vision, leadership and backbone to oppose the new and misguided regulations promoted by the “Affordable Housing Task Force” led by Pam Williamson!)

Watauga County currently has regulations in place which are designed to protect citizens and their property rights.   It is important that the County Commissioners determine whether additional regulations are necessary or desirable for protecting residential neighborhoods while providing for the reasonable use of farmland and commercial properties outside of town. —To date, the town has reportedly wasted over 2 million dollars in a futile attempt to force a mistake-laden, multi-million dollar water intake down the throats of taxpayers.   It is important that the prospects for a county water system be explored in order to provide for the future water needs of properties in the county and not be held hostage by a vindictive mayor and town council.

Veiled threats and suggestions have recently been made by the mayor and other political activists to deny city water to owners of property in the ETJ.  At a special meeting of the Town Council hastily called by the mayor for July 2, the council members demonstrated their bureaucratic pettiness by directing the town staff to suspend all in-house approval of water applications from ETJ property owners pending “further study” by the water committee!   Oddly enough, the short-notice meeting was called for 4 p.m. on a Wednesday when few citizens would be able to attend.  Instead of using the council chambers, the meeting was held downtown in a small room with little space for observers and, therefore, little chance for opposing comments.  It is also noted that two thirds of the meeting was closed to the public!

The situations described above are indicative of the prevailing imperial attitude of our mayor and town council.  The problems are not Democrat vs. Republican issues nor are they liberal vs. conservative issues.  They are issues of what is best for all citizens of Boone and Watauga County working together for the common good.