05/23/08 — WC ETJ process

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WC ETJ process

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on May 23, 2008 2:38 PM

If the general consensus is in support of the Village of Walnut Creek establishing extraterritorial jurisdiction after Wednesday's public hearing, then there are still a number of steps village officials must take before they are granted the authority to exercise that zoning control.

Extraterritorial jurisdiction allows a municipality to control the development of land outside of the town's limits by implementing zoning measures. Often it is used to protect property values both inside and outside of that town.

Walnut Creek officials have begun preliminary discussions about extending the village's jurisdiction to a half-mile radius around the village boundaries.

Most municipalities seek one- to three-mile radii.

Richard Ducker, an associate professor of public law and government at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's Institute of Government who has experience with zoning ordinances, said that if Wayne County has a land subdivision ordinance, enforces state building codes and enforces zoning in the area in question -- "the big three" as he calls them -- then county officials also would have some say in the matter.

He explained that Walnut Creek officials would have to take the issue to county officials for approval, and in essence, the county would have to "relinquish its zoning control" over that area of land -- just one part of an eight-step process that the village must go through.

Wayne County Manager Lee Smith said, though, that the issue hasn't yet crossed his desk.

"I haven't heard anything about (the ETJ proposal)," he said, adding that from the county government's perspective, there's nothing it can do until an official request or notification is made.

He agreed that if those three issues line up, then it would come before the county commissioners, but he wasn't sure what that formal process for approval of the ETJ would be.

Connie Price, the county planning director, agreed.

"Lou Cook (Walnut Creek village administrator) has just mentioned they're working on it, but nothing officially," he said.

Currently, the county has a subdivision ordinance that would affect that area, and it enforces the state building codes, but the last of "the big three" is missing.

"Around the village right now, there is not any zoning in place," Price said.

However, the county is considering a height overlay zone, which is a zoning ordinance that might affect the area.

The ordinance, which could be adopted as early as the board of commissioners' first meeting in June, is being considered to protect the county's three airports -- Goldsboro- Wayne Municipal, Mount Olive and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. The height restriction in the affected areas would be 500 feet, a height that would have little effect on residential or business development.

Without that zoning ordinance, though, the proposed ETJ wouldn't need county approval.

But if it is adopted, that county approval will be a necessity for the jurisdiction to move forward, and village officials would have to make some type of formal request or notification of the ETJ area.

At that point, Price explained that the county Planning Board would likely be the first to review the proposal before passing it along to the commission for consideration.

"If a request did come in, we'd look at it like any other request," Price said, and the village isn't guaranteed a favorable decision.

In the past, he said that the county has denied efforts by Goldsboro, Mount Olive and Pikeville to extend their ETJs in order to protect schools and airports from extra zoning requirements.

And he is not sure how the planning board or the county commission will respond this time.

"It's hard to say," Price said. "We haven't really looked at what's out there."

He does know, though, that development along the U.S. 70 corridor and how the village's plans might enter into the county's comprehensive plan, are concerns both boards are likely to have.

Another, he added, would be protecting Spring Creek Elementary School, which is located just to the south of Walnut Creek.

If county officials were to deny Walnut Creek's proposal for ETJ, then village officials would still have the option of moving on to the General Assembly and hoping for the approval of a bill stating that the village doesn't need county approval to proceed in its establishment of the jurisdiction.

But obtaining county or legislative permission to move forward is just one step the village must take, according to UNC's Institute of Government professor David Owens.

Walnut Creek would have to prepare an adequate boundary description. That boundary might extend for up to three miles, depending on the town's population.

Village officials also must publish notice of a public hearing for two successive weeks in the newspaper, the first of which must be at least 10, but not more than 25, days before the hearing.

Then, village officials must mail a notice to individual property owners in the affected area that must include information on the effect of the ETJ, the right to participate in the hearing on the matter and on the right to apply to serve on the village planning board and board of adjustment.

That notice must be mailed four weeks prior to the public hearing.

Mailed notice also is required for the application of village-determined zoning standards in the area. However, due to the time constraints on the hearing notices, it is not possible to post a single mailing on both the zoning standards and the ETJ.

An ordinance must then be adopted by the village council setting extraterritorial planning jurisdiction and delineating its boundary. A copy of the boundary map also must be filed with the village clerk and the register of deeds.

The village zoning ordinance then would have to be amended to add the area to the zoning maps, an action that must also comply with notice and public hearing requirements, and the village planning board and board of adjustment would have to appoint extraterritorial members, which must be proportional to the population of the extraterritorial area relative to the internal city population. The county board must hold a hearing on the appointments if they are made as a result of an extraterritorial area expansion.

At this point, however, village officials say they are not entering into the formal ETJ process. They just want to first hear the public's opinion on the issue before they decide to move forward.