05/30/08 — Village officials tabling ETJ plan

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Village officials tabling ETJ plan

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on May 30, 2008 1:49 PM

Residents and landowners within a one-half mile radius outside the municipal limits of the Village of Walnut Creek likely won't see any movement toward the creation of an extraterritorial zone anytime soon.

After holding a public hearing Wednesday night, attended by 300 people and at which nearly 30 people spoke in opposition to the idea, Village Administrator Lou Cook said the village council will likely put the proposal on hold.

"The consensus I got from the council is that they will table it for a while, study it, analyze it and then make a decision," Cook said.

He added that the officials will also want to speak with Rep. Van Braxton, D-Lenoir, before proceeding. Walnut Creek falls in Braxton's district, and the creation of an ETJ would have to have legislative approval.

Village Mayor Darrell Horne said he believes the council just needs some time to let the comments from the public hearing sink in.

Then, the council will likely meet back with the village planning board "to see what the next step is," he said.

"Then we'd like to meet with individuals with some of the subdivisions and others who spoke (at the hearing) to see if we can clear some of this up," he said. "We've got plenty of time. I mean the earliest it can even be introduced is next year, so we will probably meet with some of these people late summer. It will give us time to digest the comments we heard."

The creation of ETJ would allow the village to control development within a half-mile of the village. Most municipalities in the state have ETJ of a mile to help protect the property values of homes and businesses within their limits. But Walnut Creek officials have never sought to have such a buffer zone created.

The village also would have to get the permission of the Wayne County Board of Commissioners to create ETJ if it would interfere with county zoning laws. Currently, the area in question falls under the county's subdivision ordinance, but there is no zoning in place.

A zoning that is being considered for the area involves a proposed height overlay ordinance that would cap any structure at 500 feet. It is designed to protect air traffic but isn't considered to be any real hindrance to construction.

Commissioners could adopt the zoning as early as next month.

County Planning Director Connie Price said that in the past the county has turned down 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."

Price said 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' 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. Then the county board must hold a hearing on the appointments if they are made as a result of an extraterritorial area expansion.