05/29/08 — Walnut Creek officials hear objections to ETJ

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Walnut Creek officials hear objections to ETJ

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on May 29, 2008 2:19 PM

WALNUT CREEK -- More than 300 people attended a public hearing regarding a proposed extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) held by the Village of Walnut Creek on Wednesday night, with both residents of the village and neighbors in the proposed area around the village in attendance.

Twenty-nine people spoke about the proposed ETJ. All were against it.

Extraterritorial jurisdiction allows a municipality to control the development of land outside the town's limits by implementing zoning measures, often to protect property values both inside and outside of that town. Although a one-mile radius from municipal limits is the normal extent of ETJ, Walnut Creek officials have discussed a half-mile radius.

Before the hearing officially began, Village Attorney Philip A. Baddour Jr. and Village Administrator Lou Cook gave the group an explanation of what ETJ was and how it affected them. They said they wanted to assure neighbors that annexation was not in the council's future plans.

"When Walnut Creek was incorporated in 1975, it had the same powers as other cities under general law. About a year after Walnut Creek was incorporated, a local bill was passed that removed from Walnut Creek the power to annex and the right to exercise extraterritorial jurisdiction," Baddour said. "Sometime about the mid-1980s, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a statewide law that restored to all municipalities that did not have it, the right to annex. So Walnut Creek has had the power to annex since the mid-80s. Walnut Creek has never attempted or even considered involuntary annexation."

Cook said he wanted the people to know "what ETJ is not."

"It is not annexation," he said.

But most of the residents and neighboring landowners in the audience weren't convinced.

They spoke out about the possibility of annexation in the future, property values and choosing to live in the county instead of the village.

Martin Bembers, a resident and representative of the Sevendales subdivision, said he doesn't believe that village officials want to establish ETJ to protect property values, but to be able to eventually annex land.

"We have property that's already going up in value so you have some hidden agendas," he said.

Bill Kesler, a resident of Deerwood subdivision, said that he and his neighbors are happy with the current zoning, and he doesn't want to see the word annexation in the future either.

"We have our own set of covenants in Deerwood. We enjoy our synthetic autonomy from Wayne County. ... I worry about what the council will want to do five years from now," he said.

Creekside resident Lula Hardy said that she doesn't believe that the ETJ will increase property values.

"We believe, if anything, a connection with Walnut Creek could serve to devalue our property because Walnut Creek has a reputation of being an elite community with high taxes," she said.

Several other people living outside of the village spoke on behalf of the subdivisions they live in, and all had petitions signed by nearly everyone in those subdivisions stating that they didn't want the creation of the extraterritorial jurisdiction.

Willie Draughon of Beston Road said that he chose to live in the county instead of the village and is opposed to allowing the village to have any say over what is built within the half-mile jurisdiction.

"I had the means to live in Walnut Creek if I so desired. I still have the means. I don't desire," he said.

Jimmy Kornegay said he owns 17 properties within the proposed ETJ area, and he said that he likes the fact that they are still in the county's zoning jurisdiction and not the village's.

"We do not want this zoning," Kornegay said. "Let me tell you -- you're not wanted outside your jurisdiction. ... We want you to leave us alone. We're comfortable."

Each person was given two minutes to speak, though two individuals gave up their time to Randy Herring, a pastor at Emmanuel Free Will Baptist Church.

Herring said he had seven points to make about ETJ.

"No. 1, it is insulting. They want a benefit of a favorable first look as people approach the village," he said, then asked if the village wasn't already a favorable first look? "No. 2, it is unnecessary. They shouldn't compare themselves to such cities as Goldsboro, Fremont, Mount Olive and Pikeville. Walnut Creek is simply an overgrown

"No. 3, it is inhibiting to local businesses. ... No. 4, it is selfish. Walnut Creek is offering nothing. ... No. 5, it is secretive. It does not show an act of good will how they went about this. ... No. 6, it is unchallengable. They can put as many people on the boards from each part as they want. ... No. 7, it is unbelievable."

J.C. Uzzell also said that the village has nothing to offer the outside residents.

"Walnut Creek is a private community. That character hasn't changed in the 30-plus year history. There is no post office, no schools, no church, no fire department, no rescue squad, no health department, no businesses for us to shop," he said. "Walnut Creek is a bedroom community."

Mayor Darrell Horne and Cook said the entire purpose for the hearing was to see how the residents and neighbors of Walnut Creek felt about the proposal to create the jurisdiction.

"... My whole purpose of doing this was just to see, not only how the residents of Walnut Creek felt, but also what all the other people around the village thought about it," Horne said before the hearing.

And after the hearing, Horne said, "It was something that needed to be done, and we did it."