Regardless of where you live in Kings Mountain, you’ve probably heard folks talk about the ETJ – the Extraterritorial Jurisdiction that extends the City’s authority in certain matters to two miles outside of the City Limits. People who live in the ETJ live under a special circumstance, where they’re subject to many of the planning and development regulations adopted by the City of KM, yet they aren’t technically residents of the City. Because of this, they’re in a political gray area – where they’re certainly impacted by city leaders and their decisions but unable to participate in local elections – and in the case of our petition to improve how we elect our City Council, unable to sign to voice their support for change.
So, as part of our mission to ENGAGE and EDUCATE our community, we wanted to outline the history of the ETJ, its purpose, its shortcomings, and how it – and the people living in it – play a role in our larger mission to promote a forward looking vision for Kings Mountain … TOGETHER.
The Purpose of An ETJ
The concept of an Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (or an ETJ) originated from dead fish being thrown off a pier. No, really…
In 1894, the town of Washington, NC wanted to regulate the throwing of dead fish from a pier into the Pamlico River, but their jurisdiction stopped at the water’s edge. Over the years, the courts and the legislature created the concept of an ETJ – which gave a municipality the ability to protect public health and safety in an area beyond their actual city limits by enforcing certain codes and regulations and expanding policing powers. Later on, this expanded to general planning and land development regulations as well.
Municipalities in North Carolina have the ability to enact an ETJ within 1 mile, 2 miles, or 3 miles of their city limits depending on population. This gives the municipality the ability to enforce land use, development and other ordinances in this ETJ, just as they do within city limits.
The History of Kings Mountain’s ETJ
The City of Kings Mountain has enacted an ETJ for decades now. We couldn’t find the exact year that the City first implemented a one mile ETJ, but several of you may remember when the City won approval to extend the ETJ for a second mile in 1999 and 2000.
In 1999, even though the City did not at the time meet the population requirements for a two mile ETJ, the state legislature passed legislation allowing the City of KM to move forward with an ETJ expansion. By law, municipalities have to secure approval from the county (and in KM’s case – both Cleveland and Gaston counties) to move forward with ETJ plans.
Because ETJ expansion couldn’t occur on the Gaston County side, the primary question at the time was whether or not the Cleveland County Board of Commissioners would approve the City’s ETJ plans.
Throughout the summer of 2000, city and county leaders discussed and negotiated the ETJ expansion. Part of the contention and debate revolved around the Highway 29 Industrial Corridor (east of Dixon School Rd).
In July 2000, Commissioners approved the City’s ETJ plans, with one stipulation … that some form of program be implemented to educate the public about the issue.
What Does And Doesn’t Apply To The ETJ?
Just as there was in 2000 when the ETJ expansion was occurring, there is still a lot of confusion about what does and doesn’t apply to the ETJ – and how being in the ETJ affects those who are.
The City of KM Code of ordinances outlines a few areas where the City has enforcement power over the ETJ. These are generally zoning ordinances, building regulations, housing standards and activities involving the Planning and Zoning Board and Inspection Department.
ETJ residents are not City residents, and they do not pay City taxes.
They also can not politically participate in City elections. And in the case of our petition, they are unable to sign either. The Supreme Court ruled in Holt Civic Club vs. City of Tuscaloosa in 1978 that no constitutional rights were violated by preventing ETJ residents from politically participating in City affairs.
By state law, the City is required to put ETJ representatives on the Planning and Zoning Board, as well as the Board of Adjustment. These representatives are appointed by the County Board of Commissioners
Why The ETJ Is Important To Our Mission
Although ETJ residents are in a political gray area when it comes to city elections and politics, they are critically important to and impacted by our overall mission to promote a forward-looking vision for our City together. After all, decisions from the City Council and from City Hall impact them in many cases just as much as they impact City residents.
While our primary focus currently is on our petition to amend the City Charter to change up and improve how we elect our City Council, our overall mission is a multi-year effort to modernize and upgrade local decision-making so that we can ALL grow and prosper together. This naturally includes the ETJ and the City’s relationship with it.
If you’re an ETJ resident, we’d love to hear…
- Your opinion on the ETJ and the City’s relationship with it
- Your opinion on the decisions coming from City Hall and how they affect you
- Your thoughts on how we, together, can plot a forward-looking vision for the City and its surrounding area