By Jesse Wood
On Tuesday, May 19, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners will consider a resolution supporting N.C. Rep. Jonathan Jordan’s eminent domain bill moving through the N.C. General Assembly.
House Bill 875 would require municipalities seeking to condemn land outside of its jurisdiction to receive consent from the county commissioners, and the bills sponsorship comes on the heels of the Town of Boone notifying landowners of its intent to acquire easements along the transmission line route of its proposed water intake near Todd – either through a fair negotiation or eminent domain.
(Mayor Andy Ball expressed his “disappointment” with bill when it moved through the N.C. House and into the N.C. Senate on the crossover deadline day at the end of April. Jordan said on the reasons he created the legislation, which only affects Ashe and Watauga counties, is because “Boone is not very transparent.”
“Anything done to have them discuss things out in the open is a good thing,” Jordan said.)
On May 5, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners, in a 3-2 vote, agreed to grant the Town of Boone two easements with the condition that the town allocates 250,000 gallons of water for the old Watauga High School property for four years. Watauga County owns the property, which has been on the market for several years, but it is located in the Town of Boone.
The Town of Boone, initially agreed to two years, and will discuss the new requirements of the easement agreement in closed session during its next meeting on Thursday of next week.
As for the Watauga County Board of Commissioners – before entering closed session on May 5 to discuss the matter of the two easements – it heard from two citizens who requested the commissioners adopt a resolution supporting Jordan’s eminent domain bill.
Those two citizens were Frank Packard and Deborah Greene, both of whom have opposed the water intake along the New River for years and are members of the New River Advocates, a group that has attempted to halt the project.
After exiting closed session and voting to grant the Town of Boone easements for its transmission line on May 5, Commissioner John Welch “clarified that the approval of the easements was not endorsing the Town of Boone’s water intake project,” according to meeting minutes.
Then, County Manager Deron Geouque requested direction from the board regarding the citizens’ request for a resolution supporting House Bill 875 and based on a consensus, the board directed staff to draft a resolution for the upcoming meeting.
The brief resolution states that the commissioners are elected to act in the interests of all citizens in the county and the current use of eminent domain for municipalities outside of their domain “preclude the affected property owners from having adequate oversight of such takings by their locally elected officials.”
Currently, H.B. 875 is stuck in committee, where it has been since it crossed over into the N.C. Senate.
See the entire resolution below.
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