City Council says no to reducing ETJ

Published 4:55 pm Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Washington’s City Council, during its meeting Monday, rejected a proposal to reduce the city’s extra-territorial jurisdiction.

After hearing a report on the matter, the council voted 4-1 against proceeding with a plan to relinquish four areas from the ETJ. Council members Larry Beeman, Richard Brooks, Doug Mercer and William Pitt voted for Mercer’s motion to leave the ETJ “as is.” Councilwoman Virginia Finnerty opposed the motion.

The extra-territorial jurisdiction, known as an ETJ, is a zoning overlay that allows the city to zone areas outside its city limits in order to plan for future growth. In North Carolina, the state gives municipalities far-reaching powers to control planning and growth for up to three miles beyond their municipal limits, or one mile for smaller towns. Areas included in an ETJ “must be based on existing or projected urban development and areas of critical concern for the city, as evidenced by officially-adopted plans for its development,” according to state law.

Mercer opposes reducing the ETJ, saying some people who live in the ETJ rely on the city’s zoning laws to help protect their property from undesirable development. “I have real concerns with the whole concept of reducing the ETJ. … The ETJ we currently have has hundreds of homes in it. Those people built those homes with the understanding that they are in the ETJ and are going to be subject to the restrictions that are in our zoning ordinances,” Mercer said. “They took a comfort, I think, in knowing that they have protection under our zoning ordinances. … I know that if you back up now and take that protection away from those people, I could have a $200,000 home … and I could wind up with a horse farm next door.”

Mercer said he doesn’t want the city to remove that protection.

Brooks expressed similar thoughts regarding reducing the ETJ. “I’m kind of leery of doing that,” he said. “Once people put confidence in you that you are going to do a certain things and then you back off, to me, that’s wrong. You should have careful consideration of what you change and don’t change,” Brooks said.

John Rodman, the city’s director of community and cultural resources, presented the report on the proposed ETJ reduction. Rodman noted that some people who live in the ETJ resent having to follow the city’s zoning laws because they don’t live in the city and are not allowed to vote for council members and a mayor. Other ETJ residents like the protections the zoning laws provide their properties, he added.

Under the proposal, city staff would have studied four areas for possible removal from the ETJ. Those areas are the Whichard’s Beach and Sand Hole Road area, U.S. Highway 17 (north of the city) and Market Street Extension area, the Cherry Road to Corsica Road to CBH Lodge Road area and the Asbury Church Road and Mimosa Shores Road area.

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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