It points to a need for greater land use controls as people live closer to one another.
West Jefferson town officials have chosen to seek land use restrictions in an extraterritorial jurisdiction – an area just outside the corporate limits of the town.
A major reason for the establishment of the ETJ and its restrictions is to protect the community as a whole from establishment of a sexually-oriented business (SOB).
Town father’s got wind that a cage dancing establishment was being considered within the town limits and they had at that time no recourse but to prevent it or control it.
The answer they came up with was to create a zone for SOBs but locate it in a place that makes viable establishment of such a business unlikely.
The place they chose was an ETJ.
Now a group of residents in the area that could become the ETJ are saying that they are being mistreated. They believe that they are being forced into something without their consent. They are fearful that the town’s stated plan will not materialize as envisioned – that the spot picked for zoning SOBs won’t adequately discourage the establishment. They fear that their neighborhoods will become the home of a SOB because of town action.
They don’t vote for town officials, so they believe they are being forced into a position without representation.
They chose to live outside of town for a reason many say. Now the “elitists” of the town are telling them what they can and can’t do with their land. So now we are resulting to name calling and the discussion sinks a bit.
They don’t have a vote for town aldermen. They have chosen to live out of town. They will have a voice on the town planning board, a substantial voice. Some have characterized the planning board as a weak organization. It is as weak as the members sitting on it allow it to be.
The complaint that they will be governed by a governmental body they don’t vote into office has some merit. We can all see the clear link between governance and lack of ability to vote. But they have decided to live outside of town to avoid certain restrictions and costs.
The problem is they haven’t moved far enough out of town to avoid all those restrictions and costs.
The General Assembly, a body they do vote for, has determined that towns have the right to protect their fringes from certain types of development. The towns can control that development through an ETJ. That’s the law. The complaining residents agreed to live where they do under those conditions. They are represented by their state representative in the matter.
All this jockey back and forth is beyond the real issue however. What we need to do is find a solution for the entire community, town, ETJ or county. We are all one community – at least at some times and in certain issues.
Maybe we should investigate the idea of an overlay district or development standards in town or in the ETJ that would allow SOBs – even in impractical areas – but require setbacks and berms that help protect neighbors.