Wednesday, January 07, 2004

County Commissioners to the Town of Boone: "Drop Dead!"

The County Commissioners, who hate zoning, are apparently not satisfied with banning it from Watauga County. Now they want to cripple it in Boone too.

The County Commissioners have been using their authority to appoint ETJ ("extra-territorial jurisdiction") members to the Boone Board of Adjustment, the main governing board where our rules of development either get enforced or bent to accommodate developers.

This is a little-understood provision in state statutes. When municipalities take in adjoining areas under their zoning authority, they do so usually to protect those areas from bad development. Thus the Roby Greene neighborhood of Seven Oaks was added to Boone's ETJ several years ago to protect it from a proposed Maymead asphalt plant on the New River.

But state statutes also mandate that all such ETJ areas must be represented on the planning boards of municipalities. And the County Commission gets to make those appointments.

In the past, the Town of Boone made recommendations which were generally -- but not always -- followed by the County Commission. But since this present Board of Commissioners took office on December 2, 2002, a new policy of "sticking it" to the town has been in force.

The new Board of County Commissioners has not missed any opportunity to sneer at Boone's zoning. At its meeting on January 21, 2003, for example, Caldwell Community College came forward to the commissioners requesting additional funds to meet the Town of Boone's requirements for storm-water retention, landscaping, and lighting. The commissioners wanted to hammer the point that zoning -- godless, Communist zoning -- was costing the tax-payers of Watauga County more money. Commissioner Allen Trivette even suggested, sarcastically, that maybe the Town of Boone would like to cough up the extra money.

Nowhere in their discussion did anyone suggest that maybe storm-water retention, landscaping, and lighting were good and salutary objectives. No. Never entered their heads.

So, only naturally, the commissioners have been taking every opportunity to weaken, even cripple Boone's ability to uphold its own regulations ... by stacking the Boone Board of Adjustment with ETJ appointments who are guaranteed always to vote for the interests of developers.

The commissioners first move was to fire Lee Stroupe, who has been an ETJ appointment to the Board of Adjustment since the Roby Greene area was taken in for protection. By all accounts, Stroupe is a respected and fair-minded member of the Board, a teacher at the high school, and he also happens to be a born & bred "native" of the county. But the commissioners fired him when his term came up for renewal. And who did they put in his place? Mr. Earl Keller, the very man who had turned over his land on the New River to Maymead for that proposed asphalt plant.

Take that, Boone!

That was followed by the appointment of Mr. James Marsh, a major developer and one of the "Three Guys" who famously wanted to stick a huge student housing development smack dab on top of the cramped Junaluska community.

Take that too, Boone!

What's to come? More of the same, we're sure, but we hope that the Boone Town Council will begin to stand up to this treatment. What's Boone's bargaining power? Water. The County Commission wants Boone's water, mainly because some major developers want that water, often under "cover" of promoting "affordable housing."

Cool move, huh? Treating the people who have the water like a punching bag.

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