In an unprecedented move, Johnston County Commissioners voted on Monday to take back a portion of the Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) they gave the town of Clayton 10 years ago. The decision was unanimous.
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 first surfaced around 2012 when a resident on Loop Road began complaining about a residential 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 concerned citizen contacted Clayton who said it was a Johnston County problem. Johnston County told the citizen it was a Clayton problem. Nothing has been done to resolve this and other alleged violations in the Clayton ETJ since 2012.
County commissioners said of all the towns in Johnston County, Clayton’s ETJ generates the most complaints because of inaction from the Town of Clayton. In fact only one other town has had a complaint about their ETJ. That was Princeton and the problem was quickly remedied with a phone call, according to County Commissioner Allen Mims of Clayton.
Clayton has reportedly refused to force the auto repair business into compliance. If the property was controlled by Johnston County it would fall under the county’s junked motor vehicle and zoning ordinances.
“Clayton has no interest in changing their ordinances,” Commissioner Mims said Monday adding he was tired of “kicking the can down the road” for six years.
Mims said Clayton ETJ residents pay county tax dollars but are in a “black hole” and “no man’s land” because Clayton refuses to enforce violations in the ETJ, expect for properties that are satellite annexed and pay taxes to the Town of Clayton.
“This back and forth… this ain’t cuttin’ it,” Mims said pointing out that Clayton’s ETJ generates repeated complaints from residents because of the lack of enforcement or no enforcement at all, when other towns in Johnston County handle and enforce the same issues in their ETJ’s.
Johnston County’s attorney and Clayton’s attorney have discussed the impasse. Clayton officials were invited to the County Commissioner meeting on Monday but did not attend.
“This started because of their inactions,” Commissioner Vice Chair Ted Godwin stated. “We value a good close working relationship with (Clayton).” Godwin and others expressed frustration and Clayton’s inaction.
In a motion, Commissioners voted 7-to-0 to notify the Town of Clayton they are rescinding the 2007 decision to give Clayton ETJ authority from 1 to 2 miles. Under state law a 2 year notice is required, meaning Johnston County will take over the 1 to 2 mile ETJ in August 2020. The Town of Clayton will still maintain ETJ control over the zero to 1 mile radius around their city limits.
Mims said the decision was fair to Clayton and fair to the citizens in the ETJ who want violations they report enforced.
Clayton Town Manager Adam Lindsay had this response. “We have not yet received a letter from the Johnston County Commissioners and understand that a letter regarding our extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) has not yet been drafted. We’d like a chance to see this letter first before responding. We were not present or nor did we have staff present at the Commissioner’s meeting (Monday) and we were not aware that action would be taken.”
Several residents we spoke with on Tuesday who live in the Clayton ETJ said they were unaware of Clayton’s refusal to enforcement ordinance violations but were glad to see commissioners take the lead and regain control over the 1 to 2 mile ETJ area so someone can enforce zoning rules like the one on Loop Road.
The Town of Clayton can voluntarily surrender control over the disputed ETJ area before August 2020 if their town council votes to do so. One resident said he wished Clayton would go ahead and turn control back over to Johnston County if they weren’t enforcing violations.
Even after August 2020, the zero to 1 mile ETJ boundary will still be controlled by the Town of Clayton.