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City Of Asheville Bills Receive Committee Approval Despite Opposition

April 02, 2013

Two bills aiming to restrict the authority of the City of Asheville were given a favorable report by the House Finance Committee this morning.

HB 224 Asheville Extraterritorial Jurisdiction and Annexation mandates that the City transfer its extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) area to Buncombe County, and prevents it from initiating any annexations in the future. The version of the bill passed on Tuesday would also maintain county appointments to the City’s planning board and board of adjustment, even in the absence of ETJ.

HB 252 Asheville Transfers eliminates the City’s ability to spend up to 5 percent of water utility revenues on street and sidewalk repairs done in conjunction with a water project. City of Asheville Vice Mayor Esther Manheimer addressed the Committee, citing Asheville’s recent strong jobs growth, and noting that the City of Asheville is already prohibited from charging differential water rates to customers outside its jurisdiction and from requiring annexation as a condition of providing water service to developments.

Multiple legislators again questioned whether it was appropriate for the General Assembly to be passing legislation specifically targeting the powers of individual cities. Bill proponents cited concerns over a specific project in the City of Asheville where the associated streets improvements were more costly than the water project itself, and noted the unique history of the City of Asheville water system in explaining the need for the bill.

Passage of these bills comes on the heels of the filing of HB 488 Regionalization of Public Utilities last week. HB 488 is the long-expected legislation that would force the City of Asheville to transfer its water system to the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County, without any compensation for the City. Municipalities' control over their own utilities and assets was chosen by League members as a top advocacy goal for the 2013-14 biennium.

Posted on April 02, 2013 by Chris Nida