Raleigh, N.C. — House lawmakers gave final approval Wednesday, 65-47, to strip the town of Boone of its extraterritorial jurisdiction.
Supporters argued that the town had abused its power, which lawmakers granted to cities in 1959 to allow them to plan for growth in areas adjacent to city limits.
Boone Mayor Andy Ball said that town leaders are "extremely disappointed" in the decision, warning that the change will lead to "destabilized property values, increased urban sprawl effects and serious adverse consequences for public safety and stormwater in a county without zoning."
Rep. Mike Hager, R-Rutherford, said it isn't true that residents of the current area controlled by Boone's extraterritorial jurisdiction would be left unprotected.
"The county has a heavy industrial and high-impact use ordinance now," Hager argued. "That’s the same thing we have in Rutherford County, and it works pretty good."
Critics of the measure have said the bill was sought by a local developer who had been prevented by the Board of Adjustment from building student apartments in the ETJ. The developer's son spoke in favor of the measure Monday in committee.
Rep. Robert Brawley, R-Iredell, spoke against the bill, saying he had received two dozen emails against it, all from residents of the community, and only two in support. He read from one on the House floor.
"This bill would remove important protections for the citizens who live in the ETJ," Brawley read. "It makes no sense to single out this one town to remove these protections set in place so many years ago."
Brawley said the email writer asked him to allow the people of Boone to sort it out locally.
"No one approached the residents who live inside the Boone ETJ, nor did they hold a public forum," he read. "This issue has been handled outside of Boone and without any notification or discussion with the residents."
Hager noted that both lawmakers who represent Boone – Rep. Jonathan Jordan and Sen. Dan Soucek, both Republicans – are in favor of the measure.
Ball said, however, that Soucek did not notify the town before introducing the bill.
"This is the first time in history the State of North Carolina takes zoning authority from a municipality," Ball said.
Because the measure, Senate Bill 865, affects only Boone, it's what's known as a "local" bill. The final House votes means it becomes law without consideration by the governor.
"The Town Council will now be forced to immediately reconsider all water policies in light of this bill becoming law and consider whether water can continue to be provided to Boone ETJ properties or any unincorporated areas of the county," Ball told WRAL News in a written statement. "We are awaiting a detailed legal opinion on this bill's impact on residents of the Boone ETJ, and will continue to work to protect these property owners as we are able."