Tuesday, June 05, 2012
When Last Heard From, The Senator Was Clueless
“local bill” depriving Boone of the power to exercise its authority in its extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) is totally uncharted territory. No one, certainly not an elected member of the NC General Assembly, has ever put forward such a radical rug-pulling.
While it’s clear that the senator hasn’t thought through the consequences of his own bill, it falls to the Boone Town Council and its administrative staff to probe its implications. (Yesterday, I heard one local wit say that although Senator Soucek’s bill is only one sentence long, he could have shortened it even more to “Bend over.”)
In Senator Soucek’s interview with Anna Oakes, published in Sunday’s Watauga Democrat, he said he didn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Soucek’s bill reads, “The Town of Boone shall not exercise any powers of extraterritorial jurisdiction as provided in Article 19 of Chapter 160A of the General Statutes.” Senator Soucek, that IS both the baby and the bathwater too: subdivision regs., public hearings on controversial developments, building inspections – Article 19 is very long, very detailed, very thorough. The whole permitting process is covered by Article 19, and if that’s thrown out, it’s gonna be the Wild West in the ETJ. Zoning regs gone, steep slope regs gone, presumably even fire inspections gone. No storm-water abatement. You name it.
So what happens? Does the county authority – such as it is – step in and perform building code enforcement in the ETJ? Considering that the chair of the County Commission, Nathan Miller, was part of Sen. Soucek’s posse in delivering the local-bill message to the Town of Boone, we see no likelihood that the county might choose to exert itself for the public good in this instance. It's always been hands-off for the county in the ETJ, but that was when the town had authority.
What becomes of the ETJ appointments to the town’s boards and commissions?
Some 315 properties in the current ETJ currently receive the town’s water, sewer, or both, and they have agreed to the town’s development standards to receive those services. What happens when those development standards are moot because of Soucek’s bill? Businesses in the ETJ will be able to do as they please, expand in any way they want, ignore rules on setbacks, signage, sidewalks, you name it. Will they still continue to receive city water/sewer services even if they violate the implied contract they entered into to receive the water in the first place?
Why do local real estate ads promote properties that are in the ETJ, as a selling point? Because of the guarantees for controlled growth that that designation has always meant, guarantees that will be thrown out with Mr. Soucek’s bathwater, if the NC General Assembly actually passes this ill-considered and corrupt piece of special pleading.