County Code Enforcement Requesting Staffing Increase for 2013

With permit and construction activity on the rise, Mecklenburg County Code Enforcement plans to ask for a sizable staffing increase to better manage its increased workload and improve turnaround times for plan review and inspections.

The department’s request, which will go before the Board of County Commissioners on December 4, would appropriate more than $1.1 million in permit fee revenue to create 21 new positions, including 3 plan reviewers and 13 inspectors, four of whom would focus on the Inspection by Appointment program. The department hopes to have most of the new staff hired by next spring and up to speed by early summer.

The need for increased Code Enforcement staffing is based on the continued growth in permit activity, which has resulted in the following trends over the past four months:

  • Permits issued in Mecklenburg County are up at least 7% above the same time period in FY 2012;
  • Inspection service demand is up more than 15% above the same period in 2012;
  • Commercial plan review applications now include more large projects, which have driven up the demand for plan review hours 35% above the previous year.

At its regular meeting on November 20, the county’s Building-Development Commission (BDC) unanimously approved the department’s request, which means it could appear on the Dec. 4 commission agenda as a consent item. During their discussion, members of the BDC emphasized that they intend to revisit this issue in the coming year, to see if increasing activity can lead to a reduction in permit fees. For now, they supported spending the department’s additional revenue on staffing and technology to ensure that plan reviews and inspections can be handled as efficiently as possible, minimizing delays and improving customer service.

NC Building Code Council to Consider Amending Residential Firewall Requirement

The North Carolina Building Code Council will soon consider an amendment to the 2012 NC Residential Code that would correct a firewall issue now causing headaches for builders around the state.

The proposed change, submitted by the North Carolina Home Builders Association (NCHBA), would reduce the required minimum fire separation distance from 5′ to 3′, where it was before the new code went into effect on March 1. If approved, the change would eliminate the need for home plans to be redesigned with fire-rated exterior walls in order to be built on one of the hundreds of platted and developed lots in Mecklenburg County with side yards measuring less than 5′.

Under the current code, any home constructed less than 5 feet from the property line is required to have a 1-hour rated wall, with openings on no more than 25% percent of the surface.  Any home constructed less than 3 feet from the property line is required to have a 1-hour rated wall, with NO openings (windows or doors) allowed. If the code language is NOT amended, the following problems will continue to occur:

  1. Hundreds of lots in Mecklenburg County may lose value because they can only accommodate a much smaller home.
  2. Very small lots may be unbuildable, especially in TND neighborhoods.
  3. Builders may have to create new product for these lots costing significant time and money.
  4. The fragile housing industry in NC could lose momentum costing jobs and tax revenues.

The Building Code Council held a public hearing December 10 in Raleigh to consider this proposed change, and a vote is expected in March.

Mayor Visits with REBIC Board to Discuss Streetcar Plan

REBIC welcomed Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx to our monthly Board of Governors meeting earlier this week, to hear his perspectives on the city’s proposed Capital Investment Plan (CIP) and the controversial streetcar project that kept it from moving forward last summer.

Mayor Foxx addresses the REBIC Board of Governors

The Mayor defended the CIP as an economic development strategy to help revitalize areas of the city that are now in decline, such as the North Tryon corridor above Uptown, and large sections of East and West Charlotte. Some of the projects in the 8-year, $926 million spending plan include:

  • Redevelopment of Bojangles Coliseum into a multi-purpose youth sports complex;
  • Investing in a West Charlotte road network to better accommodate the airport Intermodal Facility now under construction;
  • Streetscape improvements along N. Graham St., N. Tryon St., Monroe Rd., and other corridors.

But it’s the $119 million streetcar that’s divided both the community and City Council, leading to the failure of the entire CIP proposal earlier this year. Foxx told the REBIC Board he believes developers would be the real beneficiaries of the proposed 2.5-mile extension though Uptown (the first leg, from Presbyterian Hospital to the Transit Center, is already funded) because of the new demand that would be generated for apartments, offices and retail space along the line.

The permanence of a track, Foxx said, would drive economic development along the streetcar line, much as the Lynx Blue Line spurred redevelopment in the city’s South End even before it became a reality. Acknowledging the deep divisions the project has caused among Council members, he said he would welcome a motion to remove the streetcar funding and approve the rest of the CIP so that other critical projects could advance to the ballot in 2013.

City Council will hold another in a series of workshops on the CIP on Monday, November 26 at 2 p.m. in the Government Center. Thus far, negotiations on revising the CIP to avoid a tax hike have gone nowhere. The REBIC Board of Governors has not yet taken a position on the CIP, but plans to do so early next year.

For more information on the proposed Capital Investment Plan, click HERE.


Funding Issues Force Closing of LUESA’s North Satellite Office in Huntersville

Due to shrinking budgets and expanding technology, Mecklenburg County’s Land Use & Environmental Services Agency (LUESA) will close its North office in Huntersville on Nov. 30.

This comes a few weeks after development-related services ended at the LUESA South office in Matthews.

The North Office served Cornelius, Davidson and Huntersville, while the South office provided service for Matthews, Mint Hill and Pineville. But LUESA says new technology, like its Electronic Plan Management (EPM) system, has reduced the need for satellite offices. Developers can submit plans electronically rather than bringing blueprints and paper forms to a physical office.

Starting December 3, all services previously offered in the LUESA North satellite offices will be relocated to the Hal Marshall Services Center. These services include:

  • Land development plan review and permitting for subdivisions and commercial projects
  • Land development bonds and sureties
  • Residential building permits
  • Construction site inspections such as roadways, driveways, sidewalks and storm drainage infrastructure
  • Water quality regulations including erosion control, stream buffer protection and impervious area limits
  • Zoning compliance and enforcement of the three northern Towns’ zoning ordinances.

LUESA services are primarily funded by fees paid by developers. Dave Canaan, director of LUESA’s Water & Land Resources, says the reduced fee revenue it has seen in recent years has forced the county to make some tough choices, including layoffs and the elimination of the satellite offices. By reallocating funds to technology initiatives, Canaan says the department can improve the efficiency of the plan review process while reducing costs.

Land development and zoning services inside the Charlotte City limits are not affected by these changes.

Source: LUESA

Protected: DENR Hears Stakeholder Concerns at Winston-Salem Open House

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NC Real Estate Commission Proposes New Rule Changes

The North Carolina Real Estate Commission (NCREC) has recently proposed rule changes for implementation in 2013. A public hearing will be held at the Commission’s regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 to provide anyone who is interested with an opportunity to comment on the proposal.

The North Carolina Association of REALTORS® (NCAR) is seeking feedback from our members on the changes in advance of the public hearing and request your assistance in providing them with input.

A copy of all the proposed changes can be downloaded HERE and is also available on the NCREC website, and an article with additional details appears in the October edition of the NC Real Estate Bulletin.

While many of the changes simply re-organize or slightly amend existing rules, there are some substantive changes that REALTORS® should be aware of, including new rules allowing Broker Price Opinions for a fee and proposals to increase license fees charged by the NCREC. These are summarized below, but in order to view all proposed changes, please click the link above:

  • 21 NCAC 58A .0103 – This rule is being amended: to clarify that licensees doing business under assumed names must register the name with the Register of Deeds in each county in which the licensee intends to do business; to clarify that a sole proprietorship, partnership, or other business entity other than a corporation or limited liability company may not include the name of a provisional broker or an unlicensed person in the name of the firm; to clarify that no licensee shall use in its name the name of any active, inactive, or cancelled broker without the permission of that broker.
  • 21 NCAC 58A .0107 – The full text of this rule is being repealed and reorganized into three new rules: 21 NCAC 58A .0116 Handling of Trust Money, 21 NCAC 58A .0117 Accounting for Trust Money, and 21 NCAC 58A .0118 Trust Money Belonging to Property Owners’ Associations.
  • 21 NCAC 58A .0108 – Changes made to this rule simply adds broker price opinions to the records a real estate broker is required to retain.
  • 21 NCAC 58A .0110 – This rule is being reorganized to clarify that sole proprietorships must designate a broker-in-charge unless otherwise exempt. It will also: clarify the delivery address requirements for a broker-in-charge of multiple firms; eliminate the 10 day period for the filing of a broker-in-charge declaration; clarify that the Commission designates a broker-in-charge after eligibility is determined; eliminate the requirement that a broker-in-charge provide statements to the Commission about work performed by a broker under his or her supervision; and require a broker-in-charge to take the 12 hour broker-in-charge course if his or her status is terminated for failure to complete education requirements.
  • 21 NCAC 58A .0116 – This is a new rule being created to govern the handling of funds belonging to others. It consists of paragraphs (a), (b), (c), (g), (h) and (j) of current Rule 21 NCAC 58A .0107.
  • 21 NCAC 58A .0117 – This is also a new rule being created to govern the accounting of funds belonging to others. It consists of paragraphs (d) and (e) of current Rule 21 NCAC 58A .0107 and adds a personal funds provision as well as a provision concerning bank reconciliation.
  • 21 NCAC 58A .0118 – Adoption of this rule will limit the responsibilities of broker/property owners who handle funds of their own homeowner’s association.
  • 21 NCAC 58A .2201 – This rule will define broker price opinions and comparative market analyses.
  • 21 NCAC 58A .2202 – This rule will provide minimum requirements for BPO and CMA assignments that may be accepted by licensees and would establish minimum standards for performing BPOs and CMAs.
  • 21 NCAC 58A .0503 – If passed, this rule will raise the annual license renewal fee from $40 to $45.
  • 21 NCAC 58A .0504 – The intent of this rule is to allow the submission of license activation forms over the internet.
  • 21 NCAC 58A .0506 – This rule will facilitate electronic filing of notifications of supervision and requests for license activation by requiring only the broker-in-charge’s signature. In addition, it will add satisfaction of post-licensing education deficiency as one of the requirements for license reactivation.
  • 21 NCAC 58B .0102 – The proposed change to this rule will: standardize the fee for the initial and all subsequent time share registrations for developers selling eleven or more time share to $1,000; increase the fee for the initial and all subsequent time share registrations for developers selling ten or fewer time shares from $600 to $700; and increase the fee for registration of time shares acquired by homeowners’ associations in satisfaction of unpaid assessments from $400 to $500.
  • 21 NCAC 58B .0103 – Amendments to this rule will increase the fee for renewing time share project registrations from $750 to $800.

REBIC will be reviewing the proposed rules and will submit comments ahead of December public hearing date. If you have any comments or concerns, please e-mail David McGowan, NCAR’s Director of Regulatory Affairs.

Source: NCAR

Election Brings a New Era in North Carolina Government

When former Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory is inaugurated in January as North Carolina’s 74th governor, he’ll take the reins of a state that has become overwhelmingly conservative, with a Republican supermajority in the House and a controlling majority in the Senate. Most likely, the veto stamp in the Governor’s office will go untouched for at least the next two years.

By picking up nine new House seats and at increasing their lead in the Senate by at least one, the General Assembly is now set to pursue an ambitious agenda of tax, regulatory and education reform — and a Republican governor will pave the way for passage of pro-business legislation that could vastly improve North Carolina’s economic competitiveness in the next few years. Real estate industry priorities, such as limits on local aesthetic controls on residential construction and a streamlined permit process at DENR, are also expected to move to the front burner in the 2013 legislative session.

Here’s how the General Assembly races went down in Mecklenburg County:

  • Senators Dan Clodfelter (D), Malcolm Graham (D) and Bob Rucho (R) will all be returning to Raleigh next January, each having won re-election by comfortable margins. Joining them will be Joel Ford (D), who takes the seat of the retiring Charlie Dannelly (D), and Cornelius mayor Jeff Tarte (R), who won the county’s new Senate seat without opposition in the general election. With the exception of Senator Graham, all were endorsed or supported by SPPACE, the real estate industry’s political action committee.
  • In the State House, only two Mecklenburg County races were contested in yesterday’s election. In District 88, political newcomer Rob Bryan (R), a real estate attorney backed by SPPACE and other industry PACs, defeated 10-term incumbent Martha Alexander (D) by a comfortable 10-point margin. And in District 92, Huntersville town councilman Charlie Jeter (R) edged Democratic opponent Robin Bradford to represent a district that stretches from Cornelius to Steele Creek. The remainder of the Meck delegation, including House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) and Majority Whip Ruth Samuelson (R), will all return to Raleigh after winning re-election unopposed.

But yesterday’s biggest win may ultimately be the re-election of Associate Justice Paul Newby to the North Carolina Supreme Court. Newby faced a tough challenge from Superior Court Judge Sam “Jimmy” Ervin IV, but thanks to the support of SPPACE and other pro-business PACs, he’ll be returning to the bench on the state’s highest court. Newby’s re-election is particularly important following his concurrence in the Supreme Court’s recent ruling to invalidate the Cabarrus County APFO ordinance and reestablish strict guidelines on the authority of local governments.

The real estate industry has good reason to be pleased with the outcome of yesterday’s state-level elections, and optimistic about the prospects for many of our key issues in Raleigh next year. A pro-business legislative agenda, supported by pro-business leadership in the State House, State Senate and Governor’s office, sets the stage for progress in both fiscal and regulatory and reform that will grow the economy in the Charlotte region and across the Tarheel state for years to come.