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LUESA Closing South Office, Searching for New Director

Mecklenburg County’s Land Use and Environmental Services Agency, more commonly known as LUESA, will be experiencing some dramatic changes in the coming months, and the impact on builders and developers in the county’s three southern towns could be significant.

Last week, the agency announced it will significantly scale back services at its South Office in Matthews, by relocating to the Hal Marshall Building most of its Code Enforcement and Land Development staff. As of Monday, October 1, the South Office will no longer provide the following services:

  • Land Development Plan Review and Permitting for subdivisions and commercial projects
  • Land Development bonds and sureties
  • Residential Building Permits for the three southern towns
  • Construction site inspection roadways, driveways, sidewalks and storm drainage infrastructure
  • Water quality regulations compliance including erosion control, stream buffer protection and impervious area limits
  • Zoning compliance and enforcement of the three southern Towns’ Zoning ordinances

The news comes just a few months after the agency announced it will be curtailing services at its North Office in Huntersville, shifting all land development services to Hal Marshall by December 1. The reduction in services is a direct result of LUESA’s ongoing budget challenges — a product of the dramatic decline in permit activity over the past few years. Because the agency is fully funded by permit fees paid by its customers, it has been forced to cut back on staffing and operations as that fee revenue becomes scarce. The only alternative would be to dramatically increase fees for a second straight year — a move that REBIC and our members would oppose.

In addition, LUESA’s new Electronic Plan Management (EPM) system has reduced the need for the agency to maintain multiple physical offices. While the new technology still shows room for improvement, it lets builders and developers to submit their plans electronically, and will eventually allow for online collaboration between engineers, plan reviewers and the towns.

As LUESA continues to adjust to a changing marketplace, it will do so without the leadership of longtime director Cary Saul, who announced this week he will be retiring on December 1. Saul, who has been with the Mecklenburg County for 30 years, oversees more than 450 employees and an annual operating budget of $63 million. The county has launched a search for his replacement and hopes to name a new director for the division by the end of November.

Will the closing of the South Office affect your business? Let us know by posting a comment below.

BPO Rules Approved by State Rules Review Commission

Temporary rules to govern the use of Broker Price Opinions (BPOs) for a fee have been approved by both the North Carolina Real Estate Commission (NCREC) and the North Carolina Rules Review Commission, and will take effect October 1, 2012.  Permanent rule-making will commence in early 2013.

A copy of the BPO rules, which were drafted to comply with the provisions of Senate Bill 521, can be accessed on the NCREC website at: http://www.ncrec.gov/rules/RuleAdditions.pdf

The rules establish minimum standards that brokers must comply with in order to perform BPOs in exchange for a fee without the expectation of receiving the listing for the property. Specifically, a broker shall:

  • Only accept an assignment to provide a BPO or CMA if the broker has knowledge of the real estate market, direct access to real estate market sales or leasing data and brokerage or appraisal experience in the subject property’s geographic location.
  • Not provide a BPO or CMA for a property unless the broker can exercise objective, independent judgment free of any influence from any interested party in the performance of his or her analysis of the facts relevant to determination of a probable selling or leasing price.
  • Not provide a BPO or CMA for a property unless the broker has personally inspected the exterior and interior of that property, provided, however, that an inspection of the exterior or interior shall not be required if this is specifically waived in writing by the party for whom the opinion or analysis is being performed.
  • When developing a BPO or CMA for a particular property or interest therein, a broker shall utilize methodology such as analysis of sales or income of recently sold or leased properties comparable to the subject property or capitalization, as is appropriate for the particular assignment and type of subject property.
  • When analyzing sales of comparable properties, a broker shall comply with the following standards:
    1. The broker shall select from reliable information sources a minimum of three recently sold or leased comparable properties for use in his or her analysis that are similar to the subject property with regard to characteristics such as property type, use, location, age, size, design, physical features, amenities, utility, property condition and conditions of sale. Comparables shall reflect the factors or local market conditions influencing the sales or lease prices of the comparables.
    2. The broker shall make adjustments to the selling or leasing price of selected comparable properties for differences between the characteristics of the comparable properties and the subject property that would significantly impact the estimate of the probable selling or leasing price if no adjustment is made. Adjustments shall be considered for differences in property characteristics such as location, age, size, design, physical features, amenities, utility, condition, economic or functional obsolescence and conditions of sales. The amounts of adjustments shall reflect the values that the local real estate market places on the differences in the characteristics in question.
  • Address, in addition to matters required to be addressed by G.S. 93A-83 and other provisions of this section, a description of the comparable properties used in the analysis (including any unsold properties listed for sale or rent that were used as comparables), the adjustments made to the selling or leasing prices of comparable properties, local real estate market conditions, and each method used in deriving the estimate of probable selling or leasing price.
  • In connection with a BPO or CMA, an estimated probable leasing price may be reported by a broker as a lease rate and an estimated probable selling or leasing price may be reported by a broker either as a single figure or as a price range. When the estimated probable selling or leasing price is stated as a range and the higher figure is more than one hundred ten percent (110%) of the lower figure, the broker shall include an explanation of why the higher figure exceeds the lower figure by more than ten (10%) percent.

Source: David McGowan, NCAR

Are You Registered to Vote in November’s Election?

North Carolina Dates for the
2012 General Election:

  • Friday, September 21  Absentee By Mail ballots will begin being mailed
  • Friday, October 12 5:00 PM  Deadline for Registration
  • Thursday, October 18 8:00 AM  First Day Absentee (ONE STOP)
  • Tuesday, October 30 5:00 PM  Last Day Absentee (By Mail)
  • Saturday, November 3 1:00 PM  Last Day Absentee (ONE STOP)
  • Monday, November 5 5:00 PM  Last Day to Return Absentee Ballots
  • And Sick/Disabled Deadline
  • Tuesday, November 6 6:30 AM-7:30 PM GENERAL ELECTION

North Carolina Links

  • Information on Registering to Vote can be found here – Register in North Carolina, change your registration, and check your registration status.
  • Find your individual voter information here.
  • Interested in Absentee Voting?  Click here.
  • Questions about voting in North Carolina can be found by clicking here.
  • To find your specific County Board of Elections for North Carolina, click here.

South Carolina Dates for the 2012 General Election:

  • Saturday, October 6 Deadline for Registration
  • Tuesday, November 6 GENERAL ELECTION

South Carolina Links

  • Information on Registering to Vote can be found here – Register in South Carolina, change your registration, and check your registration status.
  • Find your individual voter information here.
  • Interested in Absentee Voting?  Click here.
  • Questions about voting in South Carolina can be found by clicking here.
  • To find your specific County Board of Elections for South Carolina, click here.

Frustrated with Charlotte’s Zoning Ordinance? Here’s Your Chance to Sound Off

Charlotte planners are gearing up to undertake what could become a comprehensive revision to its Zoning Ordinance — but first, they want to hear from you.

The city has hired Denver-based consulting firm Clarion Partners to conduct an assessment of the ordinance and present three alternatives for making improvements. The process kicked off this past Tuesday night with a pair of public meetings, during which the consulting team heard an earful from developers, zoning attorneys and neighborhood representatives about what works and (mostly) doesn’t work in the current code. REBIC was on hand for both meetings, and here are some of the key points that were made:

Development Industry Concerns:

  • The ordinance frequently conflicts with other city development regulations, like the Tree Ordinance and Urban Street Design Guidelines.
  • The ordinance doesn’t provide sufficient predictability for developers or property owners, and thus deters economic development.
  • Too many regulations, like the Building Height Ordinance, are applied citywide, when they are only appropriate for specific neighborhoods.
  • The code is vague in too many places, and staff interpretations are often inconsistent.
  • Permitted use categories should be broader in scope, to allow the ordinance to easily adapt to changing market trends and technologies.
  • The city’s Locational Policy doesn’t allow enough latitude for creative development that meets the needs of a changing real estate market.
  • The ordinance needs to be online in an interactive, searchable format.
  • The ordinance doesn’t focus enough on property rights.
  • The city needs a standing committee through which industry professionals and staff can regularly evaluate the zoning code and development process.

Neighborhood Concerns:

  • Developers have too much influence in the rezoning process.
  • Small area plans are ignored.
  • The zoning process is too politicized.
  • Charlotte is becoming too urban.
  • Planning staff never recommend denial of any rezoning applications.
  • Developers are pushing people toward high-density living and mass transit.
  • The city should hire an ombudsman to help neighborhood groups organize against rezonings.
  • Too difficult for residents to learn about what’s being rezoned in their community.
  • Developers pay off city council members to get what they want, and planning staff are too afraid for their jobs to stand up and oppose.

Both groups also voiced their concerns with the lack of opportunity for public input into the assessment process. Tuesday’s meetings, which allowed for only 2 – 3 collective hours of feedback, are the only ones planned during the nine-month-long assessment process. REBIC has encouraged the planning department to conduct a series of one-on-one interviews with developers, engineers and experienced community stakeholders, but so far, there are no plans to do so. Instead, the consultants will be obtaining feedback through an online survey conducted until October 18.

We strongly encourage all our members to complete this survey and provide specific feedback on what you would change in the zoning process and ordinance. The survey asks specific questions about your experience with the ordinance, but also leaves ample room for open-ended comments. When making these comments, we encourage you to incorporate some of the above points that were made by the development industry in the public meetings, as well as any other ideas you can offer to improve the process and the code.

REBIC will be working closely with the Planning Department and their consultants throughout the review process to ensure the best outcome for our industry and for our city’s economic growth. We fully anticipate this assessment will be followed by a process in which at least parts of the ordinance are re-written — an effort that will likely take several years. The initial assessment is expected to be complete by next summer, and you can learn more about the process and take the survey HERE.

What does the Cabarrus APFO Victory Mean for YOUR Business?

Builder Briefing:

What the Cabarrus APFO Victory Means for YOUR Business


The recent North Carolina Supreme Court ruling overturning

the Cabarrus County APFO Ordinance will have a widespread
impact on builders and developers across the state.

Please join us for this FREE program to learn how your business can benefit from this important victory.

Thursday, September 27th  

Charlotte Convention Center
Room 217-A
501 South College Street, Charlotte
3:30 – 5:00 p.m.

Speakers include:

Michael Carpenter,
Executive VP & General Counsel,
North Carolina Home Builders Association

Jim Scarbrough & Jim DeMay,
Ferguson, Scarbrough, Hayes, Hawkins & DeMay, P.A.


Your registration will also include a floor pass to attend the
21st Century Building Expo & Conference

Space is Limited, so please register TODAY!

To RSVP, email Yvonne Case at case@rebic.com
or by calling (704) 940-3171.

Mayor Presses Case for City-County Consolidation at DNC

Mayor Anthony Foxx hosts a conversation on regional government during the DNC

Just hours before he would give the biggest speech of his political career at the Democratic National Convention, Mayor Anthony Foxx was telling a group of community and business leaders Tuesday why consolidation of the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County was an idea at least worth studying.

With the carnival atmosphere of the DNC swirling past the tall windows of his Hospitality Suite on North Tryon, Foxx introduced Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson, who in 2003 became the first mayor of Louisville Metro, the consolidated government created through voter referendum three years earlier.

Abramson, who served as mayor of the City of Louisville from 1986 until 1999, described the 2000 consolidation vote as the culmination of a 40-year effort that finally succeeded when area business leaders came together to back the proposal. The merger with surrounding Jefferson County resulted in a Metro government with a 26-member council elected by districts. Voters also elect a strong Metro Mayor, and the Council annually elects a president from among its members.

The former Metro Mayor, who ran successfully for Lieutenant Governor last November, was short on specifics, but said residents of the consolidated government were generally pleased with the improved level of municipal services and greater accountability. “In the old days, when something went wrong, I always blamed it on the County,” Abramson joked. No more.

But the not-so-subtle sales pitch is unlikely to create any progress on the consolidation issue. Jennifer Roberts was the only member of the county commission was present at the roundtable, and not a single representative was on hand from any of the Mecklenburg towns. The County has until the end of the year to support the Mayor’s call for a consolidation study, but debates on the issue earlier this year went nowhere. The Foundation for the Carolinas has offered to fund the study, which in truth can be launched with or without government support.

Kentucky Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson pitching the benefits of consolidated government

So is Mayor Foxx tilting at windmills on the consolidation issue? Probably. But by continuing to press his ambitious case for full political consolidation, he is also preventing any productive dialogue around opportunities for additional functional consolidation of city and county services. And while there may no longer be any low-hanging fruit in this area, the discussion is one worth having — and right now, the outcome is far more achievable.

It should also be said that consolidated government is not a prerequisite for a good regional vision. Charlotte has a long way to go on this front, with too little attention given to land use and transportation planning across county and municipal lines. The CONNECT initiative now getting underway by the Centralina Council of Governments is an important step forward in this area — maybe the Mayor’s energy would be better spent promoting this effort before he tries to convince voters to give up their local control.