Last night was Nathan Miller's last meeting as a voting member and Chair of the Watauga County Commission. We found out that he had some unfinished grudges.
The Watauga County Planning Commission presented its recommendations for a 90-day moratorium on certain development in the Boone extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) while the Commission grapples with what regs will best serve the residents there.
The motion to hold a public hearing on a 90-day moratorium -- a public hearing only -- eventually passed 4-1, with Miller casting the lone nay vote. Miller made it abundantly clear that he didn't want any special protections for the former ETJ, so he didn't see any point in a public hearing.
Miller declared that the recent election was the only "referendum" that mattered on Sen. Dan Soucek and Rep. Jonathan Jordan's law in Raleigh denying Boone its ETJ. The people reelected Soucek and Jordan … so there! The people therefore obviously supported the Soucek/Jordan action against Boone, according to Miller.
The fact that Jordan didn't carry Watauga County at all and Soucek only won Watauga by 213 votes would appear to undercut Mr. Miller's "referendum" argument. Commissioner Billy Kennedy pointed out that he got more votes in Watauga than either Soucek or Jordan, so by Miller's curious logic, the county might be a good deal more progressive than Miller wants to believe.
Commissioner John Welch was also not buying Miller's argument. Welch pointed out that this was a low-turnout election, so trying to claim a mandate for wide-open, wild-west, steep-slope & high density building -- an issue that actually wasn't on the ballot anywhere -- was misguided.
The Planning Commission had held three community meetings in the ETJ area, seeking citizen imput about what planning regs would most protect their homes and quality of life. Miller and fellow Republican commissioners David Blust and Perry Yates made a belly-aching show of grief that only 125 citizens -- out of more than 3,000 (probably) who live in the ETJ -- came out to those community meetings, proving -- evidently -- the people don't care what now happens in the ETJ.
Welch directed a question to Watauga Planning Director Joe Furman: "What percentage would you say, of those who attended those meetings, were in favor of keeping the existing development rules in the ETJ?"
"Fully 80%," Furman answered.
Welch turned to Miller. If you want to base assumptions on low turnouts, he said, why isn't that 80% as important as the election results?
There was something like a shouting match after that, with David Blust smugly declaring to Billy Kennedy that he had only won his reelection in tiny little Boone and hadn't won otherwise in the vast Watauga County landmass. Meaning, we have to assume, that in Blust's eyes a vote in Beaver Dam is worth two in Boone, or some such nonsense as that. Otherwise, we think the "one person one vote" principle still rules our democracy.
(While we're all trying to make hay out of election numbers, I really must point out that Mr. Blust won his two-year term on the Commission by a margin of 360 votes, in the whole vast landmass of Watauga County.)
Anyway, there will be a public hearing at 6 p.m. on December 16 on whether the county will adopt a 90-day moratorium on certain development (only the specific items governed by the county's existing High Impact Land Use Ordinance) until the Planning Commission can study and write an ordinance governing the former ETJ. By December 16 there will be a new man presiding as chair of the County Commission … though not necessarily a new political philosophy. It's still a 3-2 Republican majority on the commission, with no significant history of differing very much from "Millerism."