Rob Nanfelt Joins the REBIC Team!

Rob NanfeltWe’re thrilled to announce the addition of Rob Nanfelt to the REBIC team! As the Principal and Founder of Radford Norris, LLC, a full service public affairs consulting firm, Rob has nearly 20 years of experience in government affairs, and an outstanding background in real estate and land development issues.

In 2001, Rob was hired as the Government Affairs Director for the Colorado Association of Home Builders.  He was later promoted to Executive Vice President and at one time led a staff of 7 including a team of 3 contract lobbyists. Prior to that, he spent nearly 8 years in Washington, DC, first gaining valuable experience working for a U.S. Senator before moving on to the House side serving as a Chief of Staff for a Member of Congress from Colorado.

Since moving to Charlotte in 2011, Rob has directed numerous political campaigns, including the campaign last fall that elected local attorney Rob Bryan to the North Carolina House of Representatives.

Rob will help bolster our ability to cover manage government affairs issues in Mecklenburg County and beyond, and we’re excited about having him on board!

Charlotte Debating Changes to Density Allowance in PED Overlay

The Metropolitan development, at Kings & Charlottetown, is now in the PED Overlay District

The Metropolitan development, at Kings & Charlottetown, is in Charlotte’s PED Overlay District

Last Tuesday the Charlotte Mecklenburg Planning Department hosted a workshop to discuss standards for density in the Pedestrian Overlay Zoning District (PED).  The primary purpose of the meeting was for staff to gain input on a proposed text amendment to Section 10.812 of the Zoning Ordinance.Most of the 18 members of the public that attended were residents of the Dilworth Neighborhood, who would like to see residential development in the PED limited to the density of the underlying zoning district, rather than the unlimited density intended when the ordinance was originally adopted.

When the original PED ordinance passed in 2000, it was promoted as a trade-off.  Developers would have to meet enhanced design standards and would incur greater infrastructure costs to create a more pedestrian-friendly streetscape and public realm. In exchange they would be afforded higher densities whereby they could recoup some of those upfront expenditures.  The PED ordinance does effectively restrict density by limiting building heights and imposing setbacks.  Unfortunately, the language never explicitly stated that there was no “maximum residential density” within the PED overlay even though it has been granted over time as standard practice.

The proposed text amendment seeks to clarify the language and has the full support of Planning Department staff.

Representatives of the Dilworth Neighborhood raised concerns at the last meeting and are likely to participate in the next meeting, scheduled for Thursday, June 27th, from 6:00 – 7:30 pm in Room 280 of the Government Center.  If you have an interest as it relates to current and future development within the PED Overlay, you are strongly urged to attend.

CALL TO ACTION!! Support Regulatory Reform Legislation!

nc-state-legislature-building-legislative-branch
REBIC strongly supports passage of SB 612, the Regulatory Reform Act of 2013, and we need your help to move this bill as the General Assembly nears possible adjournment next week.  This important legislation has already passed the Senate, and awaits a hearing by the House Regulatory Reform Committee. Now is the time to voice your support for SB 612 and emphasize the importance of its key provision that would preempt any local regulation that exceeds state or federal requirements.

Please contact committee chairman Tim Moffitt TODAY and asking him to add SB 612 to this Wednesday’s committee calendar for a vote. 

Just CLICK HERE to generate an e-mail to Representative Moffitt, copy and paste the text below into the body of the e-mail, and hit send!

Feel free to personalize the message with examples of how your business has been impacted by excessive local regulation The e-mail will also copy the subcommittee chairs of Reg Reform, along with Speaker Tillis and Republican Conference Leader Ruth Samuelson.

Dear Representative Moffitt:

On behalf of my fellow members in the Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition (REBIC), I am writing to ask you to bring SB 612, The Regulatory Reform Act of 2013, before your Regulatory Reform Committee this week for consideration. As committee chairman, I know you share our industry’s commitment to reduce burdensome regulation at the state and local levels, and SB 612 would be an important step toward achieving this goal.

Should this bill be approved in its current form, it would roll back portions of city and county regulations that add unnecessary time and cost to commercial and residential development projects, and allow North Carolina’s Rules Review Commission to review any existing local rule upon request.

Here in Mecklenburg County, our developers are struggling with local storm water requirements that exceed state standards by eliminating an impervious surface exemption for previously developed sites and mandating a duplicative set of tree protection rules that make many properties all but impossible to redevelop.

SB 612 would also create fast-track approval processes for erosion control and storm water management, a step that would save developers thousands on each project without compromising the environmental protections necessitated in each set of development plans. Through these and other provisions, this legislation would benefit economic development in our state by creating a level regulatory playing field, while at the same time respecting North Carolina’s important natural resources.

Because the bill does not undo any existing state or federal mandate, local governments will continue to enforce critical environmental rules – but SB 612 would eliminate many overreaching and costly regulations promulgated at the local level that currently make redevelopment of urban infill sites economically infeasible.

Regulatory Reform is a top priority for REBIC and the Charlotte real estate development industry, and one that we understood was shared by Governor McCrory, Speaker Tillis, and other House leaders such as yourself. But as we approach the end of the 2013 session, we’re growing increasingly concerned by the pushback we’re seeing from DENR on this and other key pieces of reg reform legislation, as well as by the lack of urgency to bring these bills to the House floor for a vote.

Please calendar SB 612 for a hearing by your committee as soon as possible, so that North Carolina can take further steps toward improving the regulatory climate for all businesses in our state, and create greater opportunities for community revitalization, economic development and job growth.

Best regards,

Wanted: Your Isolated Wetland Nightmares

WetlandHave you had a development project that’s been negatively affected by DENR’s inconsistent and overreaching wetland policies? If you have, we’d like to know the details!

SB 638, the NC Farm Act of 2013, contains a provision that would put into statute the definition of wetlands and prohibit DENR from requiring permits for isolated wetlands that are not “waters of the U.S.” (and, thus, are not required to be permitted under the Clean Water Act).

The NC Environmental Management Commission adopted an isolated wetlands rule in 2003 – over the objections of the North Carolina Home Builders Association (NCHBA) – requiring a permit for activities in isolated wetlands and waters after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling stopped the Corps from requiring permits.  The NC rule clearly exceeds federal requirements.

In a 2011 report required by the passage of S 781 (Regulatory Reform Act of 2011) DENR lists the Isolated Wetland Rule [15A NCAC 2H .1300] as not having a federal analog, but being necessary because: “North Carolina rules allow more flexibility than provided by federal regulations”.  NCHBA raised the issue to legislators of how a rule could possibly provide more flexibility than federal regulations when there is no corresponding federal regulation! NCHBA (and many legislators) believe that removing DENR’s ability to require permits for isolated wetlands expresses the intent of the General Assembly as to regulatory reform objectives established in the 2011-12 Session and carried on in this session.  However, this section of SB 638 is coming under fire by…who else…the environmental groups.

NCHBA and REBIC are trying to make the case to our State Representatives that isolated wetlands do not require a DENR permit, and encouraging them to pass SB 638 with the isolated wetland language included. If you have a story that can help us, please e-mail Steven Webb at swebb@nchba.org or Lisa Martin at lmartin@nchba.org, or call them at 800-662-7129.  S 638 received a favorable report in the House Agriculture Committee last week and moves on to House Judiciary B Committee this Wednesday.  The environmental groups will surely be putting the heat and pressure on, so please be ready to share your stories and to contact legislators.

Source: NCHBA

City Council Defers Vote on Revisions to Assisted Multifamily at Transit Policy

At its June 24th business meeting, the Charlotte City Council voted to defer a decision on proposed changes to its policy guiding City participation in Assisted Multifamily Housing in Transit Station Areas. The policy will now go back to the Housing & Neighborhood Development (H&ND) Committee, which has been wrestling with the language for nearly 2 years.

Councilwoman Patsy Kinsey said the H&ND committee wanted to take another look at hotly debated language that would further limit the city’s ability to support affordable housing near transit, while maintaining an existing requirement that assisted, or subsidized, units be mixed in with market-rate product within a housing development. As defined in the policy, affordable housing means subsidized units serving households earning less than 60% of area median income.

Based on input it received from REBIC and others in the development industry, City staff had originally proposed softening the policy to allow developers to concentrate subsidized units in a single building that is part of a master-planned multifamily community. But committee members rejected this proposal last month, voting instead to keep the inclusionary requirement in place.

In what would prove to be his last regular Council meeting before stepping down to become the next U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Mayor Anthony Foxx voiced his concern about the impact the proposed amendments would have on the availability of affordable housing in Charlotte. Citing a study calling for the construction of another 17,000 affordable housing units in Charlotte, Foxx said he believed the policy changes approved by H&ND would make it even more difficult for the City to provide adequate housing for low-income households.

“We’re sending some mixed signals about housing in this community,” the Mayor said last week, before announcing he would have vetoed the policy changes had Council voted to approve them. “I’m worried that this will take another couple of arrows out of the quiver.”

The original Assisted Multifamily Housing at Transit policy, adopted in late 2001, has resulted in the construction of just 180 below-market, subsidized housing units along the Blue Line’s South transit corridor — a small fraction of the more than 2,100 total multifamily units added to the corridor in the last decade.

A series of meetings held last year with development industry representatives produced some ideas on how to revise the policy to help spur increased development of assisted housing in transit corridors, including:

  • Expanding the transit station radius to a half-mile;
  • Removing the maximum percentage of affordable units in a multi-family, mixed-income development;
  • Removing the required minimum densities for a transit corridor development, and;
  • Focusing on achieving mixed-income housing within a transit station area instead of within individual developments.

The City Council H&ND Committee may meet as early as July 10 to conduct another review of the proposed changes, to allow the full Council to vote on the issue before the end of the month.

Governor Signs Law Improving Code Enforcement Process

Construction 2Thanks to the efforts of two Mecklenburg County legislators, a bill to improve North Carolina’s building code and create greater consistency in local inspections was signed into law last week by Governor Pat McCrory.

HB 120, “Building Codes, Local Consistency” was a bipartisan effort sponsored by Representatives Tricia Cotham (D – Charlotte) and Bill Brawley (R – Matthews), among others. Representative Cotham was a particularly vocal advocate for the bill, after personally experiencing frustration with Mecklenburg County’s code officials while trying to open a drop-in child care business late last year.

Now that HB 120 has become law, it will impact the code inspection process in three important ways:

  • It will prevent local building code departments from requiring any more than the 8 inspections currently authorized under the North Carolina Building Code Council’s Administrative Code. It does NOT, however, limit the NUMBER of re-inspections that may be performed to ensure work is done according to code.
  • It extends the existing building code revision cycle for residential construction from 3 years to 6 years. However, still allows local code departments and individuals to petition for code revisions at any time. The extension will save money for builders, inspection departments, design professionals and others who must purchase the new codes and receive training on their implementation without sacrificing residential building performance or safety.
  • It directs the Department of Insurance (DOI) to make written and electronic code interpretations and all appeal decisions made by the Building Code Council available to the public by posting them on the Building Code Council’s website and by publishing them in the NC Register at least semi-annually.  Making these routine interpretations and appeal decisions available to jurisdictions across the state will result in consistent code enforcement, prevent unnecessary inspection delays and act as a quick reference for local code officials for sections of the code that may be difficult to understand.

REBIC and the North Carolina Home Builders Association (NCHBA) lobbyied extensively for the passage of HB 120, and are grateful to Representative Cotham and everyone in the General Assembly who voted for this important legislation!

As Sine Die Approaches, Some Reg Reform Bills Still Stuck in Committee

gavel1Since the General Assembly gaveled in its 2013 session back in January, REBIC has been working in partnership with the North Carolina Association of REALTORS (NCAR), the North Carolina Home Builders Associatoon (NCHBA) and NAIOP North Carolina to ensure the interests of the Charlotte real estate industry are advanced and protected in Raleigh.

When legislators began considering ways to overhaul North Carolina’s tax code, our industry successfully fought proposals to tax real estate transactions and levy an annual LLC Franchise Fee as high as one percent of a firm’s total assets. We’ve also been advocating for the passage of numerous regulatory reform bills, some of which have already passed both chambers of the General Assembly and are headed for the Governor’s desk — or already law. These include:

  • HB 480 (Environmental Permitting Reform): Requires NC DENR to create a fast-track process for approving storm water permits, with minimum design criteria that can be certified by a private engineer without the need for technical review. Signed into law.
  • HB 276 (Zoning/Board of Adjustment Changes): Would give property owners and land developers better standing when they bring a case before their local Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) by giving the board latitude to hear any appeal of a development or land use administrative decision, and removing any need for an appellant to prove loss of any ‘reasonable use’ of the property. Signed into law.

But other important bills have yet to make it through the legislative process, and REBIC and our partner organizations are continuing to push for their passage as the General Assembly enters its final weeks. They include:

  • HB 150 (Zoning Design/Aesthetic Controls): Would prohibit local governments from regulating the appearance and architectural design of single-family homes and townhomes. Passed House; pulled from Senate calendar ahead of a floor vote in April, now sitting in Senate Rules.
  • SB 612 (Regulatory Reform Act of 2013): Would prohibit cities and counties from enacting ordinances that are more stringent that existing state or federal regulations, allow third-parties to a request a review of existing state rules through the NC Rules Review Commission, and remove gravel from the definition of “Built-Upon Area.” Passed Senate, awaiting a hearing in House Regulatory Reform.

  • SB 638 (NC Farm Act of 2013): Includes language that would effectively eliminate permit requirements for isolated wetlands. Reported favorably from House Agriculture; will be heard in House Judiciary B on June 26.
  • HB 201 (Reinstate 2009 Energy Conservation Code): Would repeal the 2012 North Carolina Energy Conservation Code for commercial buildings, and reinstate the 2009 Energy Code. Passed House, Reported favorably from Senate Commerce and on Senate calendar for June 26
  • HB 214 (Amend Real Estate License Law/Records): Would ensure the privacy of information submitted for a real estate license application or exam, unless submitted as evidence in a NCREC hearing. Passed House, awaiting a hearing in Senate Commerce.

REBIC and our partner organizations will continue to work in the coming days to ensure all of these critical bills come to the floor of their respective chamber for a vote before the final gavel falls on the 2013 session. Be on the lookout for a Call to Action as we approach session adjournment, as we may need your help in communicating to legislators the importance that regulatory reform has to the business climate in North Carolina!