Farmers Prefer Orange County Jurisdiction

33 farmers and land owners, living in the Carrboro ETJ, have petitioned Orange County and the town of Carrboro to return jurisdiction for ETJ farms to Orange County. 




To:   The Town of Carrboro, North Carolina


Att:  Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton and Board of Aldermen

       Carrboro Town Manager Steve Stewart


       Chairman Valerie Foushee and Orange County Board of Commissioners


From:   The undersigned farm and land owners of Carrboro’s Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ)

Date:     October 29, 2009


Dear Sirs and Madams,


We, the undersigned rural farm and land owners who reside within and about Carrboro’s ETJ, and particularly those of us who reside within Carrboro’s ETJ and its Watershed Residential zone, hereby require and respectfully request that the town of Carrboro relinquish control over ETJ land and return development jurisdiction for it to Orange County government as soon as is possible for so long as we do not seek to urbanize our real property, or as defined by procedures set forth in Section 160A-360 of the North Carolina General Statutes.


We further request that this matter be placed on the respective agendas for discussion at the next possible scheduled public hearings of both the Carrboro Board of Aldermen and the Orange County Board of Commissioners, with an advance notice of at least two weeks. The basis for our request is as follows:


  • Whereas Carrboro’s leadership repeatedly has claimed that it has no interest in annexing our land; and,
  • Whereas Carrboro has no expertise in managing farms or rural land; and,
  • Whereas we believe that ETJ land should be governed by those who have experience with governing farms and rural land, and not by an urban management principles and urban land-use ordinances; and,
  • Whereas the application of Carrboro’s land use ordinances to farms and rural land is inappropriate and threatens our existence, our livelihood, our culture, our family life and, overall, our survival; and,
  • Whereas we believe that town policies foster continuing development of Carrboro’s urban area and, thus, increasingly pose threats to our land, livestock and livelihood; and,
  • Whereas there exists no statutory mandate that requires Carrboro to govern the region known as its ETJ; and,
  • Whereas we receive no benefits and do not seek benefits from Carrboro’s urban management; and,
  • Whereas we believe in the democratic process and inalienable rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and, as such, require the opportunity to elect those who govern our land and the opportunity to serve on those elected governing bodies; and,
  • Whereas there is precedent for remanding development jurisdiction to counties from municipalities; and,
  • Whereas North Carolina has adopted a Farm Protection Plan administered by the NCDA; and,
  • Whereas Orange County’s pending version has been described as “farmer friendly” and is expected by year-end;


We hereby request that Carrboro’s leadership agree to relinquish development jurisdiction, as above, and make a concerted effort to seek support for and approval of the above from the Commissioners of Orange County at this time; that this effort be initiated in good faith by all parties hereto by no later than November 15, 2009; and that an amendment reflecting this change of jurisdiction be formally adopted and acknowledged in the Joint Planning Agreement, and any and all other relevant legal resources or mechanisms as deemed necessary to ensure acknowledgement and complete compliance by the governments of Orange County, Carrboro and Chapel Hill.


In the interim, we require that Carrboro cease to apply its urban land use ordinances to ETJ land and farms for so long as we do not seek to urbanize our real property; and proceed henceforth as if our land is presently governed by Orange County’s ordinances from this day forward, and not by Carrboro’s LUO. 


[signatures/contact information redacted for purpose of online submission]


CONTACT:  W. Womble (removed)



I'm not a farmer, but I'm an OC resident and vote in BoCC elections.  How can we help?

I've been amazed at how little attention the ongoing battle between a small group of farmers (one in particular) and the town of Carrboro has received. From what I've read, there is misinformation on both sides of this issue along with conspiracy theories galore. In the absence of any press coverage, it's hard to separate out fact from threats, false accusations, and honest misunderstandings. I actually think this petition has merit since the misunderstandings do appear to result from the differing needs of farmers and urban developers. Orange County has made a commitment to protecting local agriculture. Carrboro has made a commitment to protecting local food sources, primarily gardens. Orange County has the resources to help achieve both goals, without acquiring any additional staff or consultants. I plan to continue following the issue and hopefully raise it for public discussion when I have the opportunity--not with the intention of taking sides in the war. I hope others will pay more attention as well.

According to this morning's Herald-Sun, Mayor Chilton believes these farms should remain in Carrboro's ETJ rather than being re-org'd into the rural buffer so that if, at any time in the future, the farmers or their heirs wish to sell the land they can do so in smaller parcels. Land in the rural buffer cannot be subdivided into less than 5 acre parcels.But these are farms. Do we want to make it easy for them to be developed as high-density urban property? Orange County has a commitment, including policies, resources, and tax breaks, to help farms stay as farms.The timing of this petition is obviously political. But the request still has merit.

Nice try, Terri.  Read the article.  The Herald wrote:"Some of the farmers may never want to use their land for anything but farming, Chilton said.  'I want to respect that,' he said."How do you get "Chilton believes these farms should remain in Carrboro's ETJ" out of that?

It sounds to me that you disagree with the intent of the petition for the reasons I stated--so that farmers and heirs would have the ability to subdivide the land into higher density properties, should they so desire. If you disagree with my interpretation, why not simply explain what you really believe instead of getting so defensive? Here's the full quote (since the link the article will not be active within a couple of days)."Chilton disagreed with some of the arguments in the petition, including the argument that farmers and landowners would have more control over their land if it is under county control.If the land were removed from the ETJ and was designated as part of the rural buffer under county rules, it could have implications on the
value of the land in the future, he said.If the farmers or their children or their grandchildren decided they want to cash in on
their property and sell it to developers, they would not have the same
freedom to develop the property in the rural buffer as they would in the ETJ, Chilton said."

I think that landowners should carefully consider the implications of the request and so should the elected officials - so that we are all making informed choices.  That means looking at all the implications of the proposed change, rather than giving a knee-jerk response.Incidentally, I think it is appropriate to be defensive when you misrepresent my statements.

Some observations, after some amateur investigation:

  • Of the 30 properties listed by the petition's signers, 19 are within the town's planning jurisdiction and 11 are not.
  • Of the 11 properties outside the town's planning jurisdiction, the owners of 2 of the properties own property in use value within the town's planning jurisdiction.
  • Of the 19 properties within the town's planning jurisdiction, 5 are in use value. Of these 5 properties, 3 have the same owner.

I have been unsuccessfully trying to find a copy of this petition signators on line.  The list was redacted (above).  Is it available electronically?

I received it through email. Since it was sent to the town of Carrboro and Orange County, you should be able to get a copy by contacting the town/county clerk. But if your intent is to sign it, you may want to contact Marilyn Kille directly.

in who signed it so far.  A poster eariler in this thread seems to have access to that information.  Thought that might be someplace easily found.I am not a farmer; I can't even get grass to grow reliably on my Chapel Hill gravel yard.  Amending the ETJ in the manner suggested would be positive to me because I agree that the County can do a better job.  It's puzzling why the ETJ exists at all since enforcement of building inspections within it (by Carrboro) is so demonstrably capricious, anyway, and there's no other purpose for the existence of the ETJ.

Today CH News provides additional details:

Here is an example Ms Kille and other farmers are using to justify their claim that Carrboro is trying to shift the burden of nutrient management onto farmers in order to protect development rights: (again, I am not agreeing or disagreeing--I'm on a fact finding exploration) (paraphrased from Kille letter)"On October 14, 2008 Carrboro extended the stream buffer requirements within the University Lake watershed from 30 ft. to 150 ft. 
"Effectively, for each of 550' linear feet of its ephemeral stream, my (Kille) farm lost an additional 240 sf of its "use value." or an estimated $1.4 million of land's use value. Carrboro's seven ETJ watershed farms lost a
minimum of $26 million overall. Simultaneously, stream buffers for certain urban properties were narrowed from 30 ft to 15 ft. This effectively transferred 'use value' and
more developable acreage from the watershed farms to benefit Carrboro and its investors. And they occurred without landowner's knowledge or permission; without their having been compensated; and without our having the right to object according to the State's ETJ laws." 

The material you quote combines incorrect information with nontransparent calculations to draw false conclusions.The Board of Aldermen adopted revisions to the water quality buffer requirements on March 24, 2009 [link to video; link to public hearing material]. They did so after holding a public hearing and after the proposed revisions were reviewed by several advisory boards, Orange County, the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission's Division of Water Quality, OWASA, and others.There was no increase in buffer widths from 30 feet to 150 feet in the University Lake watershed. Under the previous requirements for the watershed, buffers for perennial streams were 50 feet plus slope adjustment, and buffers for intermittent streams ranged from 50 to 100 feet depending on whether the stream flowed directly into the lake. Under the new requirements, total minimum buffer widths in the watershed are 100 feet for perennial streams, 60 feet for intermittent streams, and 30 feet for ephemeral streams.Likewise, there was no decrease in buffer widths from 30 feet to 15 feet for areas outside the watershed. Under the previous requirements, stream buffer rules applied in one way to the Northern Transition Area and in another way to the remaining areas outside the watershed. In the Northern Transition Area, buffers were 100 feet plus slope adjustment for perennial streams, 60 feet for intermittent streams, and 30 feet for minor intermittent streams. In other areas outside the watershed, the buffers were 50 feet for streams draining areas of 50 acres or more and 15 feet for streams draining areas less than 50 acres. Under the new requirements, total minimum buffer widths in all areas outside the watershed are 100 feet for perennial streams, 60 feet for intermittent streams, and 15 feet for ephemeral streams.Overall, estimated area in buffers within the University Lake watershed actually decreased slightly, whereas estimated area in buffers outside the watershed increased. In other words, there was no attempt to "shift the burden" to properties located in the watershed.

No wonder people are confused. You said "Under the new requirements, total minimum buffer widths in the
watershed are 100 feet for perennial streams, 60 feet for intermittent
streams, and 30 feet for ephemeral streams." And then you said that the new requirements for areas outside the watershed "are 100 feet for perennial streams, 60 feet for
intermittent streams, and 15 feet for ephemeral streams." Am I correct then that the current buffers for perennial streams and intermittent streams is the same for everyone--whether inside or outside the watershed? And that the buffer for ephemeral streams inside the watershed is 15 feet broader than outside the watershed?

If you're asking whether the water quality buffers are greater in the University Lake watershed than elsewhere, the answer is yes. They are now, and they were before.

  • Perennial streams, watershed: 100-foot streamside zone
  • Perennial streams, outside of watershed: 50-foot streamside zone plus 50-foot stable vegetated zone
  • Intermittent streams, watershed: 60-foot streamside zone
  • Intermittent streams, outside of watershed: 30-foot streamside zone plus 30-foot stable vegetated zone
  • Ephemeral streams, watershed: 30-foot stable vegetated zone
  • Ephemeral streams, outside of watershed: 15-foot stable vegetated zone

All of this information and more is available in the material to which I provided a link in my previous comment (and in the ordinance itself).

The woman who got mad because she illegally built on her property? Was she in Carrboro proper or in this extra-jurisdictional area?With all due respect to the folks with legitimate concerns, there is something really fishy about all of this. It has a 9/12 feel. Can we expect to see Glen Beck standing on a farm outside of Carrboro eating veal, carrying a side arm and crying about how:"The Mayor of Carrboro wants the good, honest people of North Carolina to comply with rules and regulations that make it hard for them to put income generating properties that would save their family farm." This whole thing is just really strange.

understandability is. I am not as mentally alert right now as normal, but it seems to me that you've presented two different stories. The first one was narrative and then you went to list format and they seem to say something different. I'm not saying this to criticize you. I appreciate your effort to help me understand how the two sides of this conflict can have such different interpretations. My point is that it's all confusing and is no wonder to me that there is misunderstanding. And Steve--I agree that it's all kind of fishy. That's why I keep coming back to it. Something just doesn't add up. For example, if the crime Ms Kille committed when she altered town documents was so egregious, why did the judge do nothing more than slap her hands? Why is it that the town has bent over backward to deal with groups like the Really Really Free Market folks and then does so little to work with Ms. Kille--a farmer, the kind of business person and volunteer that is supposed to be so treasured in our eclectic community? Ms Kille's communications are equally confusing. I rarely understand the points she tries to make. So in the end, we have confusing information and confusing communicants. What a mess!

Hi, Terri. The list above provides the same information as the previous narrative, just in a little more detail. Thus, as you observed, the total buffer widths for perennial streams (100 feet) and intermittent streams (60 feet) come out the same both in and out of the watershed. The difference comes down to what makes up those buffers (ie, streamside only vs streamside plus stable vegetated area). The letter you quoted does not simply conflict with or have a different interpretation of the ordinance, but provides numbers that seem to me to be impossible to arrive at from the ordinance.

Not to repeat myself, but thanks for taking the time to help clarify this issue. From what I now understand, it does seem as if farmers in the watershed lost acreage for planting/grazing as a result of the revised buffers. I'll follow up with the tax office to find out how that affects their land use tax.

How did you come to that conclusion from the preceding discussion?I can't speak to how the revised buffers may affect any particular property. However, as I stated previously, the overall estimated effect of the buffer revisions is a slight decrease in buffer acreage in the watershed and a slight increase in buffer acreage outside the watershed. This information does not support the claim that the ETJ has lost acreage to the revised buffers, nor does it support the notion that the revised buffers have shifted the burden of water quality protection to the ETJ from other areas.See background materials on the text amendment here (PDF).

I spoke with someone in the Soil Conservation office and was told that the definition of "stable vegetation" is under discussion. There were, basically, two possible consideration. First, the "stable vegetation" could be required to be trees which would take land out of availability for pasture land. Second, the "stable vegetation" could be grass in which case it could continue to serve as pasture. As for the use value issue of removing pasture land, I was told that it's an open question that to date no one has addressed.Another misconception from Ms. Kille's communication is that removing farms from the ETJ would change any of this. These new buffers apply to everyone within the Jordan Lake watershed, which includes all of Orange County.

affects our philosphies and the creek-buffer issue affects water quality and subsequently our health.

This is an interesting issue for me for a number of reasons.  I missed it the first time around and am still having trouble understanding some of the issues.  How was the figure of 1.4M loss of land use arrived at?  I looked in the County tax records.  I think I have the right parcel of land and its total value is considerably less and it use value even much more so. I guess I don't understand how farmland is taxed but from what I can tell the number seems way out of line.  Can someone explain where that number comes from?The issue of the rural buffer is interesting for me.  I see the boundary between the RB and the area under urban jurisdiction as the boundary of potential urbanization.  It seems to me the boundary is the issue and that it needs to make sense.  Are the properties in question all contiguous with the RB?  Would adding them to the RB compromise the integrity of the boundary?  Are the properties in question inside the CHCCS school district?


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