House resurrects, passes Boone ETJ bill

Posted June 24, 2014

NC Flag, Legislative Building, Raleigh

— Less than 24 hours after it was voted down in the House Government Committee, a bill to strip the town of Boone of its powers of extraterritorial jurisdiction was resurrected by the same committee and moved quickly to the House floor for a vote.  

Senate Bill 865 bans Boone from exercising its ETJ powers as of Jan. 1, 2015.

The measure lost a vote for a favorable motion Monday night, 12-15. It reappeared as a late addition to the committee's agenda Tuesday. 

In general practice, a bill that loses a committee vote is considered dead. Rep. Winkie Wilkins, D-Person, asked committee Chairman Rep. Mike Stone, R-Lee, how the bill had resurfaced. 

"It did not get a favorable report, but it did not get an unfavorable report," Stone said. "He would like an opportunity to have his bill heard again because there were members who were not here who wanted to vote for it."

"Explain what consequences the 12-15 vote had yesterday if the bill just suddenly appears on the calendar again," Wilkins countered. 

Senate special counsel Gerry Cohen said the bill wasn't actually dead after Monday's vote – just in parliamentary limbo. 

If the committee had voted to give the bill an unfavorable report – something North Carolina lawmakers almost never do – it would have been dead, Cohen said. But because the bill merely lost a vote for a favorable report, it remained on the committee calendar to await further action.

The motion for a favorable report is renewable, pointed out Rep. Jonathan Jordan, R-Ashe, so it can be made more than once. 

Boone sits in a valley, surrounded by higher land. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Dan Soucek, R-Watauga, said the Board of Adjustment, which wields the town's extraterritorial powers, had declared large ETJ areas steep-slope zones and therefore not open for development. 

Soucek accused town leaders of abusing their powers and stacking the governing board with town-friendly appointees. 

"There is no real representation for anybody in the ETJ who does not want regulation,” he said. “[ETJ residents] want some relief from the basically tyrannical power this town exercises."

If the measure becomes law, Boone would be the first town in the state to have its powers of extraterritorial jurisdiction stripped. 

Because Watauga County has no zoning ordinance, the move would essentially open the area around town to unregulated development.

"The people of Watauga County have the right to petition their county commissioners to talk about zoning or not," said Soucek.

The bill passed 18-16, with two Republicans voting against it: Reps. James Langdon, R-Johnston, and Mitch Setzer, R-Catawba. Many of the Republican committee members who were not present for the Monday vote were rounded up for the second try.

Rep. John Faircloth, R-Guilford, voted against the measure Monday night but said Tuesday he had changed his mind after further research, saying he believed Boone had "improperly used" its powers of extraterritorial jurisdiction.

"I don’t think this is the right venue to settle this. It should be settled in Boone or in that county," Faircloth added. "But it’s not being settled there, and so it’s here." 

House leaders rushed it to the floor Tuesday afternoon, a move Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake, called "abusive." 

The bill won preliminary House approval 65-47 with little debate after House Rules Chairman Tim Moore cut off the debate and tabled an amendment.

As a local bill, it does not require the governor's signature. If it passes its final House vote Wednesday unamended, it will become law. 


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  • Greg Boop Jun 25, 2014
    user avatar

    A bill to strip a city or town in our state of its extraterritorial jurisdiction is not only unprecedented but absurd.

    Developers who have issues with ETJ rulings of cities can either work with the cities or appeal in court.

    Having their Republican allies in state government strip a city or town of its ETJ powers is absolutely obscene.

  • Matt Wood Jun 25, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Apparently you missed the part where they DO have recourse: they can go to the county commissioners. ETJ is not new and exists in every county. Why is it only a problem for Boone? Because some rich Republican developer wants to gouge the sides of mountains to put up McMansions that will just get destroyed by a mud, rock, or landslide due to the developer building in a horrible location.

  • Jun 25, 2014

    An issue best left to the locals who are affected by it directly. If the citizens of Avery County don't want Boone telling them what to do, they can enact local laws to deal with it. But this isn't about Boone. This is about the University and the liberal ideals of the town. Simply another Republican "gotcha!" Transparent and spiteful. All this "We're gonna make you pay for your liberal sins!" junk is already turning off many formerly Republican voters here in Western NC. So I guess there is one good thing coming from all of this Legislative nonsense. The more intelligent Republicans are getting to see what their lowbrow elected representatives are really like, and they don't like what they are seeing.

  • veyor Jun 25, 2014

    Boone overstepping bounds, State Legislature overstepping bounds.

  • glarg Jun 25, 2014

    View quoted thread


    They forbid people to build on their own land because it spoils the view from the President's dining room. And the landowner gets no vote on whether that is reasonable or fair.

    The landowners have been there for generations. They didnt move over the ETJ- the ETJ moved over them.

  • Eq Videri Jun 24, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Right. And freeloaders can crowd around the edges of our cities, using their amenities without paying for them -- which hoses municipal taxpayers. That's fair.

  • Wheelman Jun 24, 2014

    They should do away with these all together. It is property rights regulation without any representation. If you are not a citizen of that municipality, they should not be able to regulate your property. Only the county where you are a citizen should be able to do that.

  • archmaker Jun 24, 2014

    the nc gop's war on local government continues...

  • Kenny Dunn Jun 24, 2014
    user avatar

    Why target a single community? If ETJ is a bad idea they should eliminate it entirely. Perhaps the GA want ETJ rights for the entire state.

  • ohmygosh Jun 24, 2014

    OR ETJ's deprive people outside their boundaries of their property rights without electoral or administrative recourse.
    We have a similar situation here in Henderson. They try to force homeowners in the ETJ to clean up/spruce up, ignoring the blight in Henderson proper.