SUMMERDALE - Following suit with several other Baldwin County municipalities, Summerdale voted to oppose Senator Chris Elliot’s proposed bill that would take away police and planning jurisdiction in extraterritorial jurisdictions (ETJ) for all Alabama municipalities. After receiving a resolution sent to every Alabama town and city by the League of Municipalities opposing the proposed bill, Summerdale council discussed and finally voted to oppose the bill during their February council.
Summerdale would be affected both by the loss of their police jurisdiction as well as their planning jurisdiction were they to lose control of their ETJ. After running numbers with Police Chief Kevin Brock, the council confirmed their force handles a large number of calls within their ETJ, which citizens in the area would lose were the bill to pass.
“There are a couple of cities in the county that as far as the police jurisdiction, they don’t really care because they don’t police their jurisdictions anyway,” said Wilson. “But we’d also lose our planning jurisdiction, which would mean everything that’s outside of our corporate limits wouldn’t have to be built to our standards, and there’s many, many reasons why that would be bad.”
Elliot proposed the bill with the thought that it’s unfair to the people who are living within a city’s ETJ as they are not permitted to vote for officials within the area their zip code falls. Also, businesses located within an ETJ are only taxed at half the rate as a city, and while they don’t pay taxes to the cities, the cities are spending money within the ETJ.
“As far as the situation goes here in Summerdale, there’s not too many businesses that are in our ETJ that would give us that half-rate tax, and we did analyze all of our ETJ a while back to compare what we did out in our ETJ versus the money we spend in our corporate limits, and we’re well where it costs us money to police our ETJ and do the services that we provide out there,” Wilson said. “But by policing that ETJ, you’re gaining the knowledge of who is out there, you know any troublemakers that are right outside your corporate limits that may cross that line. You also have a large number of people in your ETJ that come into the town and pay for services there.”
The argument has come down to the loss of the planning jurisdiction within an ETJ for many municipalities, a large concern for Summerdale. Currently, when any construction takes place within an ETJ the builder must follow the planning codes of either the municipality or the county, whichever regulations are stricter. To lose the jurisdiction over the ETJ would mean to lose say in building codes or standards, which could create problems for municipalities in the future.
“Our building code mirrors the county’s in many ways,” Wilson said. “But we’re able to benefit from that because we know that the buildings that are going up within our ETJ are meeting the 2018 building code. This gives us an annexation factor benefit that when a subdivision or business wants to annex into our corporate limits, and they eventually will most likely, they’ll already be to where our standards and codes are. If our jurisdiction totally goes away, then everything that surrounds Summerdale will have no zoning whatsoever. It’s very important that municipalities are able to use planning jurisdiction outside of their city limits, just as it’s important to know what is going on right outside your municipality.”