Stop the Assault on Local Government
There is an assault on the power and authority of local governments in North Carolina and your immediate support is needed. The perpetrators are the state legislature and special interest groups. It started a few years ago with what was referred to as Senate Bill 25 which stripped much of the authority towns and villages had to regulate any aspect of homebuilding except for bulk and height. Gone was the authority to require a brick foundation, or a side-entry garage, or at least one window or door on the side of a home, and many other reasonable restrictions that most towns and villages, and more importantly their residents, found to be appropriate and useful.
The latest effort consists of four separate bills, all backed by special interest, to restrict towns from applying reasonable regulations. One prohibits towns from regulating the cutting of trees without the express consent of the legislature, a second extends the exclusion from tax liability for homebuilders for unsold homes from three years to five years, a third provides a potpourri of changes to benefit developers and builders at the expense of your local government, and the fourth prohibits a town from requiring any minimum square footage for single family and two family dwellings.
Let’s start with tree removal. Senate Bill 367, sponsored by our own Senator McInnis, prohibits a town from regulating the removal of trees from private property within its own jurisdiction without the express authorization of the General Assembly. Our Village’s requirement to retain 8 qualifying trees (trees that are at least 3” in diameter at 4 ½’ above the ground) on a building lot will be repealed if this legislation passes. Is this just a way to make it easier for large scale developers to bull doze a new job site and later plant saplings to replace the lost trees? This legislation would also prohibit a town from requiring an existing vegetative buffer to be retained around a solar facility. Foxfire Village has a solar farm within its jurisdiction, but you have likely never seen it because existing trees were kept to shield it from view. If this legislation passes we would not have the authority to require the retention of existing trees around such a facility.
House Bill 492 extends the tax exemption to homebuilders from three to five years for homes that are built and remain unsold. While this measure may be understandable to protect the financial interest of the homebuilder, it provides no additional protections for the local government if and when the property becomes unsightly or dilapidated, or the owner violates other local ordinances with respect to landscape and upkeep. This new legislation should, at least, include provisions that the tax exemption disappears when the owner fails to comply with the upkeep of the property so that the town and its residents are protected from harm.
Senate Bill 355 provides a number of unwarranted advantages to developers at the expense of local governments. One provision allows a property owner to bypass the local board of adjustment and go straight to court. This makes it easier for large developers with financial backing to bully small towns with limited resources to back down. A second provision proposes to eliminate the defense of estoppel for legal proceedings which would allow the development to continue even before the courts make a decision in the case. The bill also proposes to make the award of attorney’s fees to the developer automatic rather than within a judge’s discretion when the town is in the wrong, but not the other way around. Why so much legislation in favor of special interest and detrimental to local government?
Finally, House Bill 675 contains a number of additional provisions that favor developers and homebuilders at the expense of local governments and residents. The most devastating blow is the elimination of any minimum square footage requirements for single family homes and duplexes. Despite having a modest square footage requirement for decades, Foxfire Village would no longer be able to prohibit the citing of a tiny home on the vacant lot next door.
Who knows you best? Who represents your local interests the best when it comes to neighboring properties? I suggest that it is your local governing Council or Board that can represent you and our local community the best. The state legislature should restrict itself to providing left and right lateral limits to local ordinances so that they don’t go too far in limiting or permitting an activity, but leave the area of reasonable regulation to local government. Many legislative proposals like those above are put forth with a cry of individual property rights (at the expense of neighboring property owners by the way) but the real motivation is the influence of special interests. PLEASE WRITE, EMAIL, OR CALL YOUR STATE LEGISLATORS NOW TO VOICE YOUR OPPOSITION TO THESE BILLS AND LET THEM KNOW YOU WILL VOTE ACCORDINGLY.
Senator T. McInnis
300 N. Salisbury Street Rm. 620
Raleigh, NC 27603
Representative Jamie Boles
300 N. Salisbury Street, Rm. 528
Raleigh, NC 27603-5925
E. M. McCue III