The war of words over Wesley Chapel’s ETJ is between DFM (Developer Friendly Majority) Commissioners and a small community trying to protect themselves from rampant unmanaged development along it’s borders.
This is not unique to Wesley Chapel, Marvin and Mineral Springs are resisting the same pressures. Isn’t it interesting, that these towns are the first and currently the only towns thus far, with fore-thought to adopt the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance.
‘Smart Growth’ Goldmine
DFM Boards of the past are responsible for the bastardization of county zoning with abominations like ‘Smart Growth’, a contradiction in terms, if there ever was one. In a nutshell, it was term for a zoning ordinance that allowed large and small track developers to build almost 30% more home density than the zoning district allowed — just for adding an one amenity like sidewalks or trees or street lights or trees.
Look at western Union County, the number and size of sub-developments, school overcrowding and traffic gridlock — the legacy of a Board of County Commissioners comprised of developers or beholding to them. There was no master plan to manage growth — it was and is a free-for-all.
Protecting the VIllage
By way of ETJ, Wesley Chapel’s Town Council has sought protection for the community from arbitrary and capricious zoning decisions, historically evident and very likely, given the election results.
The town was formed in 1998, out of fear of being involuntarily annexed by Indian Trail, led by then mayor, later commissioner and current NC-DOT czar, Larry Helms, who had plans to be Mineral Springs’ northern neighbor, by swallowing up every square inch of ground between the two towns.
Out sheer necessity and lack of experience at the time, Wesley Chapel was incorporated with numerous ‘donut holes’ and jetties of Union County zoning jurisdiction in the heart of the village.
As a result, two competing zoning visions and authority existed on land completely surrounded by or adjacent on 3 sides by Wesley Chapel. The recent Union Power and Piedmont Natural Gas zoning controversies are prime examples that drive home the point.()
Planning for the Future
One of the much needed and common sense goals of this Village Council is the design and implementation of a ‘Comprehensive Master Plan’ to govern the future development of Wesley Chapel. But, what’s the point of going through the time and expense of such an endeavor, if all it takes is a DFM board of commissioners to throw monkey wrench into the works.
Wesley Chapel sought the one avenue available to it, Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ), a law which allows the state or counties, to grant municipalities the authority to apply it’s zoning regulations to unincorporated land in the proximity of a town or city. Traditionally, county zoning has been rural based, much less restrictive, while cities are urban, more specific to use — two very distinct types of zoning.
Unlike Marshville and Wingate, who were granted ETJ powers one mile of their borders by General Assembly, solely on the influence of their Democrat House representative, Wesley Chapel strictly followed the course laid out by state statute. They were granted ETJ over most of the donut-holes and border parcels on their petition. Last week, in the final phase of ETJ adoption, the Village Council voted 4-0 to approve zoning and text changes to the village’s land use ordinances.
On December 4, 2006, at the inaugural meeting of the new Board of County Commissioners, one of the 4 last minute items added to the agenda was to rescind Wesley Chapel’s ETJ authority granted in the previous term. That is within their right to do so, but a surprise addition to an agenda, not allowing public comment or that of town officials was the kind of arrogance prevalent in every major decision hence.
State statute provides a mechanism for the county to rescind ETJ authority (it) granted to a town, allowing up to two years time before municipality must surrender zoning authority.
The DFM decided to create new interpretation of state statute after consulting, not county attorneys as you’d expect — after all taxpayers are paying for legal advice, but mystery lawyers whose identities are still unknown. Let me say this again. Commissioners Pressley, Baucom and Mills are acting on the legal advice of lawyers who are not being paid by the county, nor accountable to the county.
The resulting action of this highly dubious advice to was to declare on a 3-2 vote, that Wesley Chapels ETJ authority is withdrawn IMMEDIATELY! Forget the 2 years of transition as stipulated by state statue.
Only Legal Recourse
Wesley Chapel acted in the only means available – to take the issue to court, to force the county to adhere to the law.
The proposals offered by Chairman Pressley as a ‘negotiation’ were empty gestures, had no basis in law and meant to only recast the DFM a genteel light.
â€œKeep in mind whoâ€™s making the first steps now, whoâ€™s trying to get into litigation… whoâ€™s closed the door and whoâ€™s left the door open.â€ was Mr. Pressley’s quote in the EJ.
Rather than languish in uncertainty, Wesley Chapel has chosen to act now. This is the right and honorable course, not only for Village residents, but mostly for the owners of ETJ parcels.
The court will decide the next step.
Local news coverage
From the Charlotte Observer:
Village takes Union County to court
From the Enquirer Journal:
Town sues over ETJ
February 15th, 2007
Village of Wesley Chapel
On Thursday, February 15th, Wesley Chapel filed a complaint in Superior Court against Union County and the Board of County Commissioners. This action seeks a declaratory judgment from the court that Wesley Chapel is entitled to extraterritorial jurisdiction. In addition, Wesley Chapel is asking for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent Union County from exercising its Planning and Regulation of Development authority within the ETJ area while the litigation is ongoing. The Village Council of Wesley Chapel believes this action is necessary to resolve confusion among property owners in the Wesley Chapel ETJ area as to the correct governing authority for planning and regulation of development. Further details regarding this action will be released soon.