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Wednesday, 23 August 2006 00:00

Sylva set to extend planning jurisdiction to Allen’s Branch

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By Sarah Kucharski • Staff Writer

Town aldermen are moving ahead with plans to vote the Allen’s Branch community into Sylva’s planning jurisdiction.

Board members voted 3 to 1 to pursue creating an extra-territorial jurisdiction on the condition that the area’s boundary lines be redrawn to satisfy property owners who do not wish to fall subject to town land regulations. Harold Hensley, Stacy Knotts and Maurice Moody voted for the measure. Ray Lewis voted against, and board member Danny Allen was absent.

An extra-territorial jurisdiction, or ETJ, is an area where property owners — residential, commercial and industrial — do not pay town taxes but are subject to the same controls as their in-town counterparts. In return, the area earns representation on the town’s planning board.

Land-use regulations that would apply to the ETJ include Sylva’s subdivision, hillside development, erosion and sediment, floodplain management, and stormwater management regulations. Aldermen began considering making Allen’s Branch an ETJ as a result of a petition signed by local residents Don and Cathy Arrington, Millard and Charlene Monteith, Scott and Angie Connor and Forrest Bryson.

The residents who signed the petition live in the lower portion of Allen’s Branch, closer to town. However, when drawing the proposed ETJ planning board members extended the area’s boundaries the full one-mile from existing town limits, which is allowed by general statutes. Doing so brought several property owners who had not lobbied for the creation of an ETJ into its limits. These property owners have spoken out against making their property part of the ETJ, a move town board members appear ready to oblige.

“I definitely think we need to bring the line down,” Knotts told fellow board members during discussion about the proposed ETJ last Thursday (Aug. 17).

Board member Moody agreed, noting that the original request to create an ETJ only encompassed the area up to the community’s church, about three-quarters of a mile up the road.

However, board member Lewis lobbied against the ETJ.

“My personal opinion is I think we need to drop it,” he said.

Lewis’s opinion is in line with the goals of ETJ creation. Generally speaking an ETJ is created where growth threatens the town.

“The first number one rule about pursuing ETJ in an area is you have some projected development growth in an area you need to get control over. We don’t have any of that up there,” said Town Planner Jim Aust in an interview last week.

Concern regarding the need for Allen’s Branch to become an ETJ prompted Town Manager Jay Denton to question board members if they thought it would be appropriate to come up with some sort of guidelines as to how an ETJ is established.

“Anyone can ask,” Knotts said. “It doesn’t mean that it will happen.”

Board member Hensley said that in creating an ETJ residents get protections, but the town gets little in return, at least in terms of tax dollars.

Following the vote, board members circled around a map of the Allen’s Branch community to begin redrawing boundary lines based on which property owners did or did not want to become part of the new ETJ.

Although board members did not decide on a boundary line, their work will be reflected at a public hearing to be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5, at Town Hall, prior to the regularly scheduled board meeting. The hearing will provide local residents with an opportunity to weigh in on the issue.

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