Rethinking the ETJ issue

Published 8:52 pm Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tuesday’s editorial urged the Washington City Council to proceed with removing some areas from its extraterritorial jurisdiction.

That urging may have been premature. Yes, it’s a good bet the reducing the city’s ETJ would result in the city saving money by not having to send building inspectors and other personnel into the ETJ to enforce building codes and the city’s zoning and land-use regulations. Removing some property owners from the ETJ could do those property owners harm by eliminating protection they enjoyed by living in the ETJ.

Councilman Doug Mercer brought up an interesting point the other night during a council meeting.

“I’m living in — I don’t care which one of the zones you’re talking about, one, two or three — I have come in and I have complied with all the city regulations and built according to whatever the regulations are,” Mercer said. “Now, you come along and you say, ‘Well, I’m going to take you out of my ETJ.’ So, that eliminates any of the restrictions that the city has imposed in that area for 25-plus years. Now, I came come and buy the lot right next door and I can put up a tin shack, and it’s subject to no regulations whatsoever. I’m sitting here right next door in a $250,000 house. Next door is a $500 tin shack, simply because we have eliminated our control authority over that piece of property. When I built my house, I built it under the assumption that I was in an area that the city was going to adequately protect for me, and now you tell me I’m not going to protect you. I think we are doing the people who have complied with our regulations for the last 25 years a disservice if we all of sudden kick them out (of the ETJ).”

Well said, Doug Mercer.

Before reaching a decision on the ETJ, the council should take Mercer’s comments under consideration. Property owners in the ETJ deserve nothing less.