City to discuss reducing jurisdiction

Published 6:25 pm Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Washington officials are exploring possibly reducing the size of the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.

The extraterritorial jurisdiction is a zoning overlay that allows a municipality to impose its zoning regulations outside its corporate limits to help it prepare for future growth. It’s also the legal ability of a government to exercise its authority beyond its normal boundaries. An ETJ takes in areas a city or town believes is somewhat urban in nature and likely would be targeted for future annexation.

Usually for a city of Washington’s size, the ETJ extends a mile beyond the city limits, but the North Carolina General Assembly passed special legislation that allows Washington to extend its ETJ a mile and half.

“Because annexation laws have actually changed, I don’t anticipate us doing what is known as forced standard procedures regarding annexation. I’d like the Planning Board to look at reducing the ETJ. Specifically, I’m concerned about is we spend a tremendous amount of time over at Whichard’s Beach,” City Manager Bobby Roberson, a former council member, said during the City Council’s Feb. 22 meeting. “We’ve been over there for years and years. Whenever we have a flood, we have to go in and make inspections. Unfortunately, for us, we have to enforce the regulations for people who got a building permit, who said they just wanted to enclose it, then all of a sudden they have a room. They they’ll file for flood insurance and we have to go over there and tell them they’re in violation of the zoning ordinance. Otherwise, we get negative effects on our flood insurance (program).”

Councilman Doug Mercer weighed in on the issue. “That doesn’t suggest that if you reduce it in one area that you’ve got to reduce it by the same amount in all areas. … Right now, our ETJ in some areas almost bumps the city limits.”

This exploration isn’t the first time city officials have talked about possibly reducing the ETJ. In 2012, the City Council talked about reducing the ETJ in three areas, but eventually decided to make no changes. The three areas considered for removal from the ETJ included an area south of the Pamlico River that includes Whichard’s Beach Road, an area on U.S. Highway 17 north of the city near the Hunter’s Pointe Sporting Clays complex and an area that’s mostly farmland along Cherry Road and Corsica Road between Market Street Extension and Slatestone Road.

“If you guys don’t want to the ETJ reduction, it’s fine for me,” Roberson told his council colleagues in 2012. “I’m telling you, we’re providing service for free for those residents in the county. If that’s what you want to do, that’s fine. We can move right along and keep it just like it is.”

Roberson continued: “Beaufort County needs to step up and get land-use regulation or flood ordinances, like every other county’s done in the state of North Carolina. If they don’t want to do that, I don’t think the city should step over and continue to enforce the ETJ because the annexation laws are going to change. I’m willing to go with you guys. I don’t have a problem with it.”

Annexation laws changed, making it more difficult for municipalities to pursue forced annexation.



About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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