A bill that could have a powerful effect on local communities and decision making — HB 281 (ETJ Restrictions), has been scheduled for hearing in the House Government Committee today, June 2, at 10 a.m. The legislation was the subject of an advocacy alert distributed by email on Wednesday by the N.C. League of Municipalities, encouraging municipal officials to take action against the bill and to attend the committee hearing in Raleigh. According to the email, at least 221 cities in the state — including Asheville, Black Mountain and Weaverville — would lose extraterritorial jurisdiction powers under the bill, including “zoning, subdivision control, building inspection, minimum housing, historic districts, development agreements, cell towers, open space” and others.
Long a controversial subject, countywide zoning was adopted by the Buncombe County commissioners in 2009 after an original attempt in 2007 was struck down on procedural issues. In counties that do not have countywide zoning, HB 281 would grant voting power to ETJ residents in elections for municipal officials, and would allow ETJ residents to run for municipal office. As the league notes, such a situation could potentially allow a non-taxpaying ETJ resident to take part in setting tax rates for city residents. ETJ residents now, in some towns including Asheville and Weaverville, do have representation on planning boards and boards of adjustment, and ETJ designation has required the approval of the county commissions where it takes place.
Several Western North Carolina representatives sit on the Government Committee, including Buncombe County’s Democratic representatives Susan Fisher and Patsy Keever, and Republican Tim Moffitt. Republicans David Guice of Brevard and Phillip Frye of Spruce Pine are also on the committee. Guice’s District 113 includes Henderson, Polk and Transylvania counties. Frye’s District 84 includes Avery, Caldwell, Mitchell and Yancey counties. The crossover deadline for legislation is June 9, when the bill would need to have cleared the House and been forwarded to the Senate for potential passage this session.
Other June 2 legislative activity includes a second chance for the proposed Sunshine Amendment (HB 87), which will be taken up this morning in the House Rules Committee. The bill, which calls for a constitutional amendment to guarantee public access to governmental meetings and records (currently ordered by public law), was defeated by one vote in this committee last week, but has been resuscitated for a second vote today. Buncombe County’s Rep. Moffitt is a committee member; he voted in favor of the bill in March when it passed second reading in the House.
EDITOR’S UPDATE: Committee member Susan Fisher has reported that HB 281 was changed to a study bill in committee, meaning that if it is approved by the House and Senate, the issues involved will be studied and brought back to the Legislature for any future changes to current ETJ law. To see the newest version of the law, click here.
by Nelda Holder, contributing editor