County Commissioners Rescind Vote, Restoring Town Of Clayton’s Two-Mile ETJ

The green area is the 1-2 mile ETJ around Clayton. County Commissioners voted in Aug. 2018 to take away that portion of the ETJ from the Town of Clayton. In Aug. 2019, Commissioners rescinded the decision, allowed Clayton to keep planning and zoning control over the full two mile radius around their city limits.

A year after Johnston County Commissioners voted to take back a portion of the Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) they gave the Town of Clayton, the board has reversed their decision.

The ETJ gives towns like Clayton the legal authority to exercise planning and zoning control over properties adjacent to their city limits.

The Town of Clayton had an existing 1 mile ETJ when they approached Johnston County in December 2007 to add an additional 1 mile radius. Commissioners approved the request and on March 3, 2008 Clayton began exercising jurisdiction over a new 2 mile ETJ.

Problems surfaced in 2012 when a resident in the ETJ began complaining about a home in a subdivision that had reportedly been turned into an auto service and repair business with multiple cars – many without licenses plates – on the property waiting for repair. The citizen tried to work with the Town of Clayton for six years to get the problem resolved but to no avail.  Clayton officials said it was a Johnston County problem. Johnston County said it was a Clayton issue. Both sides claimed they didn’t have authority to help the resident address the violations in the subdivision.

That prompted County Commissioners, in August 2018, to notify the Town of Clayton they were rescinding the 2008 decision that gave them jurisdiction over the new two mile ETJ.  The notification would take effect on August 2020.

At the 2018 meeting Commissioner Allen Mims said Clayton ETJ residents pay county taxes and deserve to have issues enforced.  “Clayton has no interest in changing their ordinances and we’ve been kicking the can down the road for six years. This back and forth… this ain’t cuttin’ it.”

“This started because of their inactions,” Commissioner Ted Godwin stated in 2018.

Fast forward one year later to the August 2019 meeting of County Commissioners.  Godwin told his fellow board members he would like to undo the 2018 ETJ letter.  Commissioner Butch Lawter, who replaced Mims on the board last December, was a Clayton town councilman in Aug. 2018 when the decision was made. Lawter said it gave him a unique perspective. He blamed the problems on a lack of communication between Commissioners and Clayton leaders, an issue he says has now been resolved.

With little discussion, commissioners voted 7-to-0 to rescind the 2018 letter, which allows Clayton to maintain legal authorities over their two mile extraterritorial jurisdiction.

Clayton Town Manager Adam Lindsay said, “Last year, County commissioners took a vote to take back that extra mile to trigger conversations with us as to how we were enforcing some things in the ETJ. We provided information and we appreciate them rescinding their previous action, thus preserving the Town’s two-mile zoning area.”

“The ETJ is critically important for a growing town and equally so for one of the fastest growing counties in the state,” said Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod. “The goal of this zoning jurisdiction is for a town to have some authority to guide the quality and density of development that occurs right outside our boundary. We’re glad that our Johnston County commissioners are partners in this mechanism for smart growth.”

Mims, who is no longer on the board of commissioners told JoCoReport on Monday, “If they worked it out where Clayton can look after it then that’s fine with me. But if its going to continue on like it was the County ought to take it back.  If it works out it’s a win-win. If not they can go back and do it again.”