Controversy continues to swirl around the adoption Monday night of the Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) in West Jefferson with unconfirmed reports of businesses and individuals boycotting the town and those who supported the measure. Newly named Town Manager Brantley Price said rumors are all he’s been hearing about the situation.
The board of aldermen unanimously adopted the ETJ Monday night amid repeated opposition from some of the residents in the affected area. Comments were similar to those made at the public hearing in May including concerns over potential location of sexually-oriented businesses and the inability of those residents to vote in town elections.
Residents of the ETJ would be eligible to serve on the town’s planning board, and an amendment to the zoning ordinance allows for six residents to be chosen by the county board of commissioners.
The town’s planning board/board of adjustment will now consist of 11 members; five who must reside within the town and be appointed by the board of aldermen, and six who must reside within the ETJ and be appointed by the county commissioners. Residents within the ETJ can apply to the county manager’s office to be chosen to serve on the town’s planning board, and the aldermen can suggest two nominees to the commissioners for each ETJ appointment. The commissioners must make the ETJ appointments within 90 days of receiving a resolution from the aldermen or the aldermen can make the appointments.
During Monday’s meeting, several amendments were made to the town’s zoning ordinance regarding the ETJ to allow the replacement of a comparable nonconforming mobile home in the event the existing nonconforming mobile home is damaged or destroyed, and to replace a damaged or destroyed nonconforming billboard with a comparable nonconforming billboard. These were also concerns raised by residents during the previous public hearing.
Town Planner Matthew Levi said any request for a sexually-oriented business would fall under a conditional use permit within industrial zoning and must meet all sight and distance restrictions. The town’s regulations are not as stringent as those applied by the county, said County Commission Chairwoman Judy Poe during the ETJ public hearing in May. Several other residents within the ETJ also noted the differences during the public hearing.
An amendment was made to zone ETJ areas on both sides of NC 194 from West Jefferson to the intersection with NC 88 in Smethport R7 residential. Previously, the plan had been to zone most of this area highway commercial. Levi said that basically the only area in the ETJ where a sexually-oriented business could apply for location is within the industrial use area near GE Aviation, but that the restrictions are so stringent it would be unlikely any would seek to locate there. “The law says we can regulate but not reject them,” he said of sexually-oriented businesses.
In other business, the board adopted its budget for the next fiscal year at $1.1 million, just slightly above the current year. Price said there are no increases in property tax or the water/sewer rates, and there are no salary increases for town employees although the town is absorbing a 16 percent increase in the Blue Cross/Blue Shield health insurance premiums for employees.
Price was officially hired as the new town manager following a two-hour closed session by the board after the regular meeting. Price came on board with the town as finance officer in June 2009 and stepped in as interim town manager this past May following the resignation of Greg McGinnis. A native of Ashe County who grew up in the Warrensville community. Price is a graduate of Northwest Ashe High School and holds a finance degree from Appalachian State University. He worked with WJ Wood Products and Catawissa Lumber as account manager and later plant controller.