by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The N.C. Supreme Court has ruled, 6-1, to reverse a trial court and side with the General Assembly in its legal battle with Boone over changes to the town’s power to govern territory outside its jurisdiction.
The court’s four Republican justices agreed with the reasoning set out in Justice Paul Newby’s opinion. It says the General Assembly had the right to take away Boone’s so-called “extraterritorial jurisdiction” and return planning and zoning authority for that area to surrounding Watauga County.
Extraterritorial jurisdiction affects the organization of local governmental subdivisions by extending a town’s jurisdiction into the county, thus shifting the political authority over certain subjects from one local government to another. Here, by withdrawing the Town of Boone’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, the legislature restored the local jurisdictional boundaries as originally fixed, returning the governance of territory located outside of the Town limits to Watauga County. The limitations imposed by Article II, Section 24 do not apply to an action by the General Assembly establishing or modifying the jurisdictional boundaries of local governmental units. Because the legislative act withdrawing the Town’s extraterritorial jurisdiction falls squarely within this plenary power, we hold that the act is constitutional, and we reverse the decision of the trial court.
Democratic Justices Sam Ervin IV and Robin Hudson agreed with the result but offered a different legal basis for their decision. Justice Cheri Beasley dissented.