Residents living within Carrboro's extraterritorial jurisdiction follow all of the town's laws — but they aren't able to vote for the officials who create these laws.
An extraterritorial jurisdiction is a statutory provision in state law that gives cities the right to regulate zones outside of their municipal boundaries. The city has control over areas such as land use, zoning and any of the city regulations that would normally be enforced inside town limits.
“One of the great ironies of extraterritorial jurisdictions is if you live in an extraterritorial jurisdiction, the governing body has control over how you use your land, what the zoning looks like, where you have to go to get inspections and building permits and things,” said Orange County Commissioner Mark Dorosin. “All of that authority and power rests with the town, but you don’t have the power to vote for elected officials who would make those decisions.”
Chris Hogan, owner of Lake Hogan Farm, has a family history of living in the area that is now the Carrboro extraterritorial jurisdiction.
“I don’t know if I feel represented by the Carrboro administration,” he said. “There are families out there in that property that have owned land for multiple generations, myself being the ninth generation. I do think that when I’ve attended the Board of Aldermen meetings for Carrboro, they do know who I am. But it’s frustrating when there’s people controlling the processing and planning of your land and you really don’t have a vote.”
Dorosin said the legal justification for extraterritorial jurisdictions is that those who live in one do not pay city taxes.
“It’s kind of like the opposite of no taxation without representation; you don’t have taxation so you don’t have representation," he said. "They can vote in county elections, but once an area becomes a part of a town’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, the county has extremely limited authority over that area.”
Board of Aldermen member Randee Haven-O’Donnell said the town shouldn’t have control over areas where residents can’t elect their representatives.
“The rural buffer of Carrboro has limited representation through extraterritorial jurisdiction representation on Advisory Boards," said Haven-O'Donnell. "That's why I fought hard against the approval of widespread development in the rural buffer with changes to Orange County's Unified Development Ordinance on Agricultural Enterprise development in the rural buffer.”
Board of Aldermen member Jacquelyn Gist had a different view on the issue.
“I don’t think that the Carrboro extraterritorial jurisdiction should be relinquished,” she said. “I think that we pay very close attention to the people there, and they are able to vote in the county. Whatever issues come up that involve the extraterritorial jurisdiction, I generally tend to side with them because of that issue. They have membership on our different citizen’s advisory boards.”
Hogan said he felt his lack of representation was unfair treatment.
“It’s frustrating…here’s a municipality that plans what happens on my land, but I don’t have a vote for that administration. Back in the late 80s or 90s, the county kind of ‘gave us away’ to Carrboro, and I don’t know what the trade-off really was. That was kind of the feeling that I’d had, that I was ‘politically bartered’ if you will,” he said.
Hogan said he's come to terms with the current situation.
“I’ve accepted that right now it’s just a fact of life that I can’t vote for the people that are controlling my property, but I might as well get to know them and have them get to know me.”
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