General Assembly Leaves Raleigh with Much Still Unfinished

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The North Carolina General Assembly has entered the seventh-inning stretch.

Contrary to popular belief, the legislative session isn’t over, but on an extended break until May 14, 2014, when it returns to Raleigh for the 2014 Short Session. And while the past seven months saw legislators step out ambitiously on Tax Reform, Elections law and a host of social issues, many real estate industry priorities were left on the sidelines. Key bills that would limit residential design controls, promote redevelopment and eliminate inequitable neighborhood leverage in rezoning cases made it through the NC House, only to get shelved when they reached the Senate.

Here’s a summary of where our key industry bills sit at the end of session:

  • HB 74 (Regulatory Reform Act of 2013):  What began life as a bill to require the periodic expiration and review of existing state laws eventually morphed into the NCGA’s primary vehicle for regulatory reform in 2013. The House added language eliminating the use of Protest Petitions in local rezonings and a section that pre-empted any local environmental regulations exceeding state or federal law. Regrettably, these critical provisions were stripped out by Senate leadership, which also refused to include them in the Conference Committee substitute (a compromise bill agreed to by members of both chambers).Nevertheless, the bill still has some valuable provisions for the real estate industry, including the rule review language mentioned above, the removal of gravel and wooden decks from the state definition of ‘Built-Upon Area’, clarification of the process for appealing an Erosion/Sedimentation violation, and a 10-year statute of limitations for local enforcement actions against a grandfathered land use that violates a local zoning ordinance or comp plan. In addition, for the next year, local governments are prohibited from adopting any new environmental regulations that exceed state or federal law, unless they do by unanimous vote.Where It Stands: On Governor’s Desk.

    Where We Stand: REBIC is disappointed that the NC Senate chose not to include the Protest Petition and Pre-Emption language in this year’s Reg Reform legislation, and will continue to advocate for the passage of these provisions in the 2014 Short Session.

  • HB 120 (Building Inspections / Local Consistency): Extends the existing building code revision cycle for residential construction from 3 to 6 years, requires state code interpretations to be published online, and prevents local building code departments from requiring any more than the 8 inspections currently authorized under the state’s Administrative Code.Where It Stands: Signed into Law.

    Where We Stand: Kudos to the General Assembly for passing legislation that will better streamline the building code across the state, and to Representative Tricia Cotham (D-Mecklenburg) for leading the charge.

  • HB 150 (Zoning Design/Aesthetic Controls): Would prohibit local governments from regulating the appearance and architectural design of single-family homes and townhomes.

    Where It Stands: Passed House, now sitting in Senate Rules.

    Where We Stand: REBIC’s top priority was regrettably shelved in the Senate, which ironically passed a nearly identical bill in 2012. We’ll continue to advocate for it’s passage in 2014.

  • HB 192 (Allow ROW Usage in Central Business Districts):  Allows NCDOT to enter into agreements allowing local governments to enact ordinances permitting sidewalk dining in state ROW.

    Where It Stands: Signed into Law.

    Where We Stand: A good piece of legislation that will make it easier for commercial property owners along state roadways to offer curbside dining.

  • 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.

    Where It Stands: Passed House, now in Senate Rules.

    Where We Stand: A good bill that will help reduce construction costs for commercial and industrial developers. Will advocate for passage in 2014.

  • HB 276 (Zoning/Board of Adjustment Changes): Gives 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.

    Where It Stands: Signed into Law.

    Where We Stand: A win for property owners and developers.

  • 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.

    Where It Stands: Signed into Law.

    Where We Stand: Good legislation that will reduce time and cost for the development industry.

  • HB 773 (Local Gvmts/Buildings/Structures/Inspections):  Would tighten restrictions on local Rental Registration programs, including mandatory universal registration of rental properties, posting requirements and misdemeanor penalties. It would effectively rollback most of Charlotte’s expansive Rental Registration program.

    Where It Stands: Passed the House on May 14th, now awaiting a hearing in Senate Commerce.

    Where We Stand: We support and will continue to advocate for passage by the Senate in 2013.

  • SB 81 (Charlotte Douglas International Airport): If we have to explain this, you’ve been living under a rock.

    Where It Stands: Signed into Law, but Court injunction prevents it from being enacted … we think.

    Where We Stand: REBIC took no position.

  • SB 159 (Require Certain General Reappraisals):  Requires Mecklenburg County to conduct a full revaluation of properties in its tax digest and issue refunds to property owners when necessary.

    Where It Stands: Signed into Law.

    Where We Stand: A good law that will ensure Mecklenburg County property owners are fairly refunded from a seriously flawed revaluation process in 2011.

  • SB 545 (Master Meters/Landlord-Tenant Agreement):  Provides for the use of a master meter for electric and natural gas service when the tenant and landlord have agreed in the lease that the cost of services shall be included in the rental payments and the service shall be in the landlord’s name.

    Where It Stands: Signed into Law.

    Where We Stand: A victory for rental property owners.

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