The public hearing last night before the Watauga County Commission over what to do about land-use protections in the (former) Boone Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) was lopsided by a wide margin. The vast majority of speakers said they wanted the county to provide the same protections they had depended on under Boone's zoning regs before Senator Dan Soucek succeeded in eliminating those protections.
By my count, only three of the speakers last night expressed joy that the ETJ had been stripped naked by a law passed in Raleigh. One of those speakers, Margaret Buck, seemed to tie land-use planning to the evils of educational standards (Common Core) and ultimately to a communist plot in the United Nations. Well, okay then.
During a pre-hearing press conference held by "Citizens for Local Control" (emphasis added ... and, take that, Dan Soucek!) -- a group formed by residents of the ETJ -- we learned that there are over 2,400 parcels of land in the ETJ and some 1,500 families.
Residents of Seven Oaks, Sunny Knolls Acres, Jordan Cook Road, the Locust Hill neighborhood, Snaggy Mountain, Homespun Hills, and Fieldstream all voiced the same concern and often said they had bought their homes in the ETJ because of the zoning protections. They are feeling very exposed and vulnerable now. Most said that they were not polled or surveyed about what they wanted. One speaker asked, Who wanted the ETJ destroyed?
As if to answer that question, up popped Jeff Templeton, who perhaps more than any other individual had propelled Senator Soucek into his project to eliminate the ETJ. Mr. Templeton said he thought it was fine for these other neighborhoods to have some protections, but he doesn't want regulations imposed on undeveloped land in the ETJ (and you're free to make whatever inferences come to mind). Mr. Templeton also joined the chorus at the hearing asking for a two-year moratorium on "polluting" industries while new regs are considered.
By "polluting industries," most people seemed to finger a certain concrete plant off Roby Greene Road, and the Radford Quarries rock crushing operation, and a possible asphalt plant (Radford Quarries has twice before attempted to install an asphalt plant in the ETJ, both defeated because of Boone's zoning).
County Commission Chair Nathan Miller, who has lawyered for the concrete plant, did not show up for the hearing, which was interesting. The meeting was presided over by Vice Chair David Blust.
The whole issue of zoning the ETJ was referred to the Watauga Planning Board, which is tasked with coming up with a plan to be presented to the County Commission. Don't expect any action before the Fall elections.
In the meantime, a moratorium on certain kinds of development while the Planning Board studies the issue is highly doubtful, with the current Republican domination of the County Commish.
JW, then why not conduct a secret ballot referendum of the entire ETJ region on whether the property owners want ETJ to be reinstated? The BOC hearing was primarily for people who were upset with the legislative action against ETJ. Do you really believe that hearing accurately reflected the views of the whole ETJ region?
Then if and when the referendum vote is held, we will know for sure.
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