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Commissioners Set ETJ Public Hearing for Aug. 19, Four Speak Before Commission on Topic at Tuesday Meeting

By Jesse Wood

July 9, 2014. The Watauga County Board of Commissioners has scheduled its public hearing to hear from citizens of the extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) on potential regulations they want imposed upon the area by the board.

The hearing is set for Tuesday, Aug. 19, at 6 p.m.

In June, the N.C. General Assembly passed N.C. Sen. Dan Soucek’s sponsored Senate Bill 865 that eliminates the Town of Boone’s ETJ come Jan. 1, 2015.

Proponents of the town’s ETJ said that it was a planning tool for the municipality’s growth and a buffer that protected neighborhoods from high-impact businesses. Critics of the ETJ described it as “regulation without representation” because those in the ETJ cannot vote in town elections and said that town was abusing its ETJ authority because it wasn”t expanding.

While the county only zones in the communities of Valle Crucis and Foscoe-Grandfather, it does have an Ordinance to Regulate High Impact Land Uses. Now that the bill has become law, the town has begun to explore its legal options and is considering cutting off water from town utilities in unregulated areas outside of the town limits.

The commissioners set the hearing at its meeting yesterday. While a hearing will take place next month, four people elected to speak on the issue during the regular public comment period that occurs at the end of each meeting.

Of the four that spoke, only Jeff Templeton, a member of a family of local developers and a resident of the ETJ, spoke in favor of the elimination of the ETJ and told the commissioners he was “overjoyed” with the fact that this became law.

Noting concerns that this change might have on residents of established neighborhoods in the ETJ, Templeton said that the commissioners could approve of “some measure of regulation in order to protect property values” and the quality of life of residents in the ETJ once the new law goes into effect.

“The county should be able to adequately address [these concerns] without burdening everyone with overregulation,” Templeton said.

ETJ residents Annette Reeves and Lee Stroupe and Boone Town Council Member Quint David, all of whom were against the abolition of the town’s ETJ, also spoke before the commissioners.

Reeves, who lives in the Locust Hill subdivision off of Roby Greene Road, said that this decision by the GOP in the state legislature was “done without regard to how it might impact land values or living conditions” of those residing in areas that don’t have zoning.

“It’s another case, in my opinion, of a few elitists exercising their political clout over the majority,” Reeves said. “I’ve benefitted from living in the ETJ off of Roby Greene Road. The few tree and lighting regulations in the [Ordinance to Regulate High Impact Land Uses] does little to protect the air quality or home values.”

David thanked the board for its willingness to hold a public hearing and suggested that the county work with at least the town’s planning board to ensure “some measure of conformity” between the county and town.

Chair Nathan Miller said that after the public hearing, the topic will move before the Watauga County Planning Board, which will then pass on recommendations for the Watauga County Board of Commissioners to consider.

For more on this topic, click here and scroll down to see numerous articles within the past couple months on the ETJ controversy between the town and county.