County: City responsible for ETJ enforcement

An intergovernmental meeting of the Vance County Board of Commissioners and the Henderson City Council took place Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Silo Restaurant. In attendance for the city were Mayor Clem Seifert, council members Elissa Yount, Ranger Wilkerson, John Wester, Mary Emma Evans, Lonnie Davis, Bernard Alston and Mike Rainey, and City Manager Eric Williams. County Commissioners Tim Pegram, Terry Garrison and Tommy Hester were there to represent the county, along with County Manager Jerry Ayscue.

Fire Chief Danny Wilkerson was also present. While four of the seven commissioners were absent, only Harriette Butler was missing among the City Council members.

Yount began the discussion of the Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction by indicating that the issue of control within that area had come up. She asked the county representatives for direction on how to proceed in working out the issue. The city has zoning authority over the ETJ but lacks the personnel to enforce its ordinances in that area, which is larger than the city itself.

Hester said the City Council should put into writing its requests regarding the ETJ and present them to the commissioners. He said that in surrounding towns, code enforcement is done by the cities.

Yount stressed the need to have code and zoning enforcement within the ETJ. She indicated that the city enforces zoning free but that the county charges the city for code enforcement. “Who is going to enforce,” she said, “is a livability issue. We did not take over enforcement.”

County representatives maintained that the city took over enforcement when the ETJ was created. Garrison said, “When the city elected to seek ETJ territory, you asked for responsibility of that being part of the city.”

He added, “Enforcement of zoning is the option of the city.”

The discussion then moved toward a clarification of how the county charges for code inspections.

Ayscue explained that the county does inspections on request and charges $45 for the service. If the city requests the service, the city is billed $45. The same is true of private property owners throughout the county. There is no charge for inspections that are “self-initiated.” Later in the discussion, however, it was indicated that the county only performs inspections upon request.

As the meeting moved toward brainstorming possible solutions, Hester suggested that research be done into how other municipalities enforce codes within their ETJs.

Williams stressed that for the city to enforce its ordinances within the ETJ, a law has to be in place.

“We have chosen not to extend ourselves the authority,” he told the assembled officials.

Yount responded that such a law needs to be enacted. She also indicated that money needed to be found for a joint city-county code enforcement position. She further put forward that other cities’ code enforcement officers pay for themselves by enforcing civil penalties for code violations.

Garrison drew the discussion to a close by stating that all members want to see improvements in the city and county. He requested that the county manager ask the city and county staffs to get together and cooperate.