City Council to Consider Extension of Stormwater Mitigation Fee Program

The Charlotte City Council could vote next month on the extension of a program that allows developers to pay a mitigation fee instead of constructing costly on-site storm water management systems — and one that can pay big dividends for urban redevelopment.

First adopted in 2011, the Post-Construction Controls Ordinance (PCCO) Mitigation Fee program is aimed at helping developers of small commercial sites by allowing them to contribute to the cost of public offsite improvements rather than installing onsite systems such as retention ponds, which often must be located underground because of site constraints. The fees collected ($60,000 for the first acre, $90,000 for each additional acre) are used by the City to make system improvements within the same basin as the development, from stream bank restoration to the purchase of private property in floodplains.

The program was adopted with a sunset provision of April 30, 2014, and city staff would like to see it extended for another 5 years. But because of a new state law that makes it more difficult for local governments to adopt environmental regulation, Council must give its unanimous consent for the initiative to continue.

Under the Regulatory Reform Act of 2013, which the General Assembly passed last July, a local government may not pass any environmental ordinance that regulates an area already regulated by DENR or the EPA unless it has unanimous approval of its governing body. This requirement is in place until October 2013, to allow a study committee to evaluate whether pre-emption of local environmental regulation is an effective tool for economic development.

The issue will be taken up by City Council’s Environment Committee on Wednesday, April 2nd, and will go to the full Council by the middle of the month. REBIC supports the Mitigation Fee-in-Lieu program as a way to encourage infill redevelopment, and will continue to with with City Council and staff to ensure it’s reauthorization.

Charlotte Home Builder Appointed to State Sedimentation Control Commission

Charlotte builder and developer Karla Hammer Knotts, a longtime member of the REBIC Board of Governors, was recently appointed by Governor Pat McCrory to represent the North Carolina Home Builders Association (NCHBA) on the state Sedimentation Control Commission.

The Sedimentation Control Commission (SCC) is charged with adopting rules, setting standards, and providing guidance for the implementation of North Carolina’s Sedimentation Control Program. The composition of the Commission is set by state law to encompass a broad range of perspectives and expertise in areas related to construction, industry, government, and natural resource conservation and quality. All members are appointed by the Governor and serve three-year terms, except for the Director of the Water Resources Research Institute of the University of North Carolina.

Karla is co-owner of Knotts Development Resources and Knotts Builders, a single-family home building and land development company operating in the Charlotte area. In addition to serving as REBIC’s Chair in 1997, she also served as our Interim Director in 2008 and 2011. She is a past president of the Home Builders Association of Charlotte (HBAC) and a longtime member of the NCHBA Land Development Committee.

Karla has both the expertise and the experience to represent the development industry on the SCC. We congratulate her on her appointment and thank her for her willingness to serve!

County Manager Calls for Review of Permitting & Inspection Process

Dena Deorio

Dena Diorio

In response to concerns raised by REBIC, the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association and the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio has initiated a comprehensive review of the Code Enforcement Division, in an effort to address issues in the permitting and inspection process that are causing significant delays for the building and development industry. She said she expects the review to be completed within the next 30 – 45 days, at which point she will bring the Board of Commissioners a series of recommendations for action.

Diorio’s announcement last month came on the heels of a series of letters from REBIC, the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association and the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce calling attention to the issue and offering specific recommendations for improvement. Some of these recommendations include:

  • Reducing inconsistencies between Plan Review and Inspections;
  • Aligning inspection times with project size;
  • Improving the county’s permit hold notification system;
  • Facilitating a cultural shift to improve customer service

You can read REBIC’s letter to the Board of Commissioners HERE.

In addition, the Mecklenburg County Building-Development Commission (BDC) this week voted to create a subcommittee made up of industry representatives and Code Enforcement staff to review REBIC’s recommendations and identify opportunities to improve the plan review, permitting and inspection process. That group is expected to begin meeting sometime in March.

The issue of Code Enforcement delays has also received a fair amount of media coverage in recent weeks. Both WSOC and WBT ran stories on the delays faced by builders and developers and the adverse impact they could have on economic development in Mecklenburg County.

REBIC will continue to work with Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte in the coming weeks to achieve greater efficiencies, improved coordination and reduced delays in the plan review, permitting and inspections process. If you have any input or suggestions you think would help in this effort, please e-mail Joe Padilla, REBIC’s executive director.

County Commission Pressing for Changes in Permitting & Inspections Process

Meck County SealThe Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners is looking closely at ways to improve the county’s permitting and inspection process, and new County Manager Dena Diorio has named the issue one of her top priorities for the coming months.

REBIC has been meeting with County leaders over the past few weeks, and has prepared a series of specific recommendations for improving the efficiency of the Code Enforcement division, which includes:

  • Reducing inconsistencies between Plan Review and Inspections;
  • Aligning inspection times with project size;
  • Improving the county’s permit hold notification system;
  • Facilitating a cultural shift to improve customer service

During his State of the County address last Friday, County Commission Chair Trevor Fuller identified improvements to permitting and inspections as one of the most important issues for the Board to address, saying:

I want you to know that we have heard you in the business community when you are telling us that our permitting, inspection and code enforcement operation, though wellrun, is not fully meeting the needs of our constituents. 

That is why I report to you today that county manager Diorio has elevated this issue to a high priority in the county. Working with the city of Charlotte and others, Manager Diorio is leading a thorough review of our current permitting, inspection, and code enforcement system. She is hearing input from all the stakeholders. She will be taking specific steps, and making recommendations to the board, to address the concerns that have been raised. All of this is to say that we will make sure Mecklenburg County is truly open for business.”

Commissioners Pat Cotham and Matthew Ridenhour have also spoken on the need for improving Code Enforcement, both identifying it as an economic development priority during a January 23rd appearance on the Sunday morning political show FlashPoint. 

REBIC will continue to work with the County Board of Commissioners and Code Enforcement staff to identify opportunities to improve the plan review, permitting and inspections process, and we welcome any additional suggestions you may have.