Today, Senator Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson) and Representative Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson) released the following joint statement in response to the decision of the North Carolina Court of Appeals relating to the public water system operated by the City of Asheville:
“We are gratified by the unanimous decision of the North Carolina Court of Appeals upholding the constitutionality of the law creating a metropolitan water and sewerage district for Buncombe County, Henderson County and the City of Asheville. Essentially, the court recognized the legislature’s power to organize and regulate its municipalities and other local governments.
The legislature created the regional water and sewer authority following decades of well-documented disputes involving water and sewer systems. The legislature decided that a regional solution for public water and sewer for large public systems was the best way to provide the highest quality water and sewer services.
We are particularly pleased that the court noted the long contentious history with customers residing outside of Asheville’s city limits and that the transfer of the Asheville Water System might provide better governance for the system. One of our primary interests in this legislation was to establish a water and sewer district governed by a local entity whose representatives are selected from all areas served by the system, as opposed to being governed by Asheville’s city council.”
“Former North Carolina House Representatives Tim Moffitt (R-Buncombe) and Nathan Ramsey (R-Buncombe) played an important role in the passage of this legislation, and we know they are gratified by the Court of Appeals decision.”
In 2013, the General Assembly enacted legislation that provides a unified framework for establishing regional representation for water and sewer districts across the state that meet certain criteria. Locally, the new law would have the effect of combining the sewer systems in Buncombe and Henderson counties with the water system operated by the City of Asheville into a water and sewerage district in order to guarantee a seat at the table for all stakeholders. The City of Asheville challenged the constitutionality of that law, but the court found that the law was constitutional under the North Carolina Constitution.
Specifically, the court found that the law transferring the water system to form the water and sewerage district was not a “local law” relating to “health”, “’sanitation” or “non-navigable streams” in violation of Article II, Section 24 of the North Carolina Constitution; that it did not violate the City’s rights under the “law of the land” clause found in Article 1, Section 19 of the Constitution; and that it did not constitute an unlawful taking of Asheville’s property without just compensation.