Foley follows Baldwin cities opposing proposed bill to remove extraterritorial jurisdiction for municipalities

By Jessica Vaughn
Posted 3/8/19

FOLEY - Foley is next in line of Baldwin cities who have announced opposition towards a recent bill proposed by State Senator Chris Elliot that would remove extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) for …

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Foley follows Baldwin cities opposing proposed bill to remove extraterritorial jurisdiction for municipalities

Posted

FOLEY - Foley is next in line of Baldwin cities who have announced opposition towards a recent bill proposed by State Senator Chris Elliot that would remove extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) for Alabama municipalities. ETJ’s give municipalities legal authority to extend their authority outside of their city limits, including police, fire, and planning.

After the bill was proposed, many cities throughout Alabama have come forward to support or oppose the bill, with Baldwin County mayors unanimously opposing the action.

“You have several things that go on within your ETJ: fire, police, and planning,” said Foley councilmember Ralph Hellmich. “Foley doesn’t have police out there any more, but we do have fire and planning, and those are critical to us.”

Currently, the City of Foley expends more money towards the ETJ than they get back and would itself save dollars for the city were the bill to pass. However, the council fears the side effects of the bill would be negative for the city as well as its citizens in the long run.

“This bill would hurt the citizens on the fire coverage side,” said Council President Wayne Trawick. “Where this would hurt the city is we would not be able to have any input in the planning, and when they put in a subdivision that’s density doesn’t match what we want then it hampers us to be able to annex them into the city. When those subdivisions are sold out, people want to come into the city, and then we’d have a problem because we’d have to expend a lot of money to take them in.”

One argument from those who support the bill has to do with “no taxation without representation,” meaning people who reside in an ETJ are unable to vote during elections for officials within their zip code. Supporters believe if they’re unable to vote within a city, then they should not have to pay taxes to the city in locations within the ETJ.

“The only real effect that we have in an ETJ is there’s a sales tax within the stores, half of what is in the city, and in planning,” said Hellmich. “The planning jurisdiction does not apply to zoning, so we’re not telling people what they can do with their property. The only thing that applies to us on the ETJ for planning is for subdivisions: if you’re building a subdivision out there it’s asked that it’s built to the city’s standards because most of the time they want to annex into the city. So from that perspective, it’s not your everyday citizen that is not being represented out there by their local official, it’s developers that are building subdivisions where there are no houses and nobody living at the time, so the higher standard applies. Currently that standard is the city’s, so if we lose the planning aspect of it is even more critical for the city, and on the citizen’s standpoint it will hurt them if they lose fire coverage.”

Mayor John Koniar is concerned that insurance companies that are dependent on the fire department’s ISO ratings will increase rates were the legislative to pass, which could affect more citizens than originally thought.

“If we were to withdraw from the territory, I think we would see a lot of people suffer and we would receive a lot of requests for help,” said Foley Fire Chief Joey Darby. “If this were to pass, there would be a large area outside of our city limits and even pockets within that would have little or no coverage, and we would see those ISO ratings elevate to the point where we could potentially have an insurance crisis.”

From a response time standpoint, Darby fears the delay in the emergency call being transferred to his department would account for potentially major loss of life and property.

The City of Foley council officially voted on Monday, March 4 to oppose the new legislative.