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City of Asheville v. State

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20190
Nos. 14-1255, (N.C. Ct. App., 10/06/2015)

A North Carolina appellate court upheld the constitutionality of state legislation that withdrew a city's authority to own and operate its public water system and to instead transfer it to a sewer district. The law creates a new type of political subdivision, known as a metropolitan water and sewerage district (MWSD), empowered to run both a public water system and a public sewer system within a defined jurisdiction. Under the new law, a municipal public water system that is operated in the same county that a municipal sewerage district (MSD) operates a public sewer system must be transferred to that MSD, upon which the MSD converts to an MWSD. Because the city at issue in this case owns and operates a public water system, but the public sewer system is owned and operated by a metropolitan sewer district, the city was required by law to cede its authority to the sewer district—the only public water system in the state that met the law's criteria for a forced transfer. The lower court held that the transfer provision violated the state constitution and enjoined its enforcement. But the law does not relate to health, sanitation, or non-navigable streams within the meaning of the state constitution, it does not violate the state constitution's "law of the land" clause, and it does not constitute an unlawful taking without just compensation. The appellate court, therefore, reversed.