Ashe Commissioners plan to hear public comments at their Monday, Aug. 1 meeting concerning suggested names for the West Jefferson Planning Board’s membership to represent the new Extraterritorial Jurisdiction for the town.
The commissioners get to choose the new representatives because the ETJ is still within the county, simply under the town’s planning/zoning ordinances. There will be six people added to the town’s five-member planning board to accommodate the approximately 6,000 acres of the ETJ.
West Jefferson submitted 12 names of residents within the ETJ to the commissioners for consideration of six appointments for the town’s planning board. County Manager Dan McMillan also gave the commissioners the names of all the residents within the ETJ so the board will know everyone who is eligible to serve. Any resident within the ETJ interested in serving on the West Jefferson Planning Board can apply through the county manager’s office. The appointments will be made by the commissioners, expanding West Jefferson’s planning board to 11 members.
McMillan said at Monday’s commission meeting that a public hearing to discuss the appointments must be held, and this is scheduled for the commissioners’ Aug. 1 meeting.
The commissioners also approved, 3-1 with Larry Rhodes opposed and Gary Barber absent, having each commissioner nominate one person for the town board with the sixth chosen by acclamation by all. All the commissioners would vote on each nomination. A motion to this effect was made by Gerald Price and Chairwoman Judy Poe temporarily abdicated her chairmanship to second the motion when neither of the other commissioners – Rhodes or Richard Blackburn – would second the motion.
West Jefferson’s planning board/board of adjustment after the added members will consist of five members 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.
West Jefferson Aldermen adopted the controversial ETJ in June, extending the town’s zoning ordinance one mile out around the town’s border into the county. The only areas not affected are where West Jefferson’s border directly contacts the border with the town of Jefferson. This was done to ensure the town’s control of undesirable business or development around the town limits.
At Monday’s commission meeting, Cynthia Wadsworth, a vocal opponent of the ETJ, said she believes the ETJ is simply a prelude to annexation by the town, and residents of the affected area are angry about having to abide by town ordinances without being able to vote for the town aldermen. A group of those opposed are seeking help from the North Carolina General Assembly with “Stop NC Annexation” to get the laws changed that allow the ETJ process in the state. She called it a type of “power grab” and noted that North Carolina is one of only four states that allow this type of regulation.
“Many people are angry, but they won’t speak out,” Wadsworth said. She said they are hoping for the best representation on the planning board since they have no vote in West Jefferson.