Charlotte City Council Approves Changes to PCCO Mitigation Fee Program

The Charlotte City Council last week voted unanimously to approve revisions to the Post-Construction Storm Water Ordinance (PCCO), making permanent the citywide Mitigation Fee program supported by REBIC and other real estate industry groups.

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Storm Water Task Force Reaches Agreement on Proposed Changes to Mitigation Fee Program

After more than 11 months of negotiation, a Task Force made up of development industry representatives, environmental advocates, hydrologists and citizens reached consensus on  a proposal that would make permanent the citywide Mitigation Fee program in Charlotte’s Post-Construction Storm Water Ordinance (PCCO).

First adopted in 2011, the citywide Mitigation Fee option gives developers an alternative way to meet the on-site storm water requirements of the PCCO on redevelopment sites. The fee option, which is approved administratively, is currently $60,000 for the first acre of redevelopment and $90,000 for each additional acre or portion thereof. Some onsite control measures are still required for most sites to manage volume and peak flow downstream, but costly water quality measures are eliminated through payment of the fee. Continue reading

City Council Approves 6-Month Extension of Stormwater Mitigation Fee Program

The Charlotte City Council has unanimously approved a six-month extension of a program that allows developers to pay a mitigation fee instead of constructing costly on-site storm water management systems. REBIC applauds the action as a way to maintain an alternative compliance option that can provide economic incentives for small-site 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.

Over the past 2 years, the City has collected $898,000 in mitigation fees from 10 redevelopment projects totaling $14 million in value that chose to pay the Mitigation Fee in lieu of constructing onsite controls. The revenue was used to fund 6 public stormwater projects that might otherwise not have been completed, including wetlands restoration near McAlpine Creek and 3 new ponds in north Charlotte.

The Mitigation Fee program was adopted with a sunset provision of April 30, 2014, and city staff proposed a 5-year extension early this year. But because of a new state law that makes it more difficult for local governments to adopt environmental regulation, Council needed to give its unanimous consent for the initiative to continue.

The extension approved this week allows the program to continue until October 31, 2014, during which time city staff, environmental advocates and development industry representatives will conduct a review of how it may be improved. Councilman John Autry was instrumental in authoring the compromise extension, after expressing reservations about the impact of the program in helping to restore Charlotte’s impaired streams.

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.

House Passes Landmark Regulatory Reform Package

legbuildingThe North Carolina House of Representatives approved legislation on Thursday that would bring big changes to the rezoning process and could roll back portions of local regulations that exceed state mandates, including Charlotte’s Post- Construction Controls Storm Water Ordinance (PCCO).

SB 112, “Create Jobs Through Regulatory Reform”, was approved 84 – 28 in a late afternoon vote, and now heads back to the Senate, where it will hopefully be concurred with early next week. This legislation would provide regulatory relief to the North Carolina real estate industry by:

  • Prohibiting cities and counties from enacting environmental regulations that are more stringent that existing state or federal regulations;
  • Repealing the authority of counties and cities to allow for protest petitions in rezoning cases; and,
  • Establishing a process for the review and expiration of existing state agency rules, and clarifying the definition of what constitutes a “policy”.

One such local ordinance that could be impacted by the passage of SB 112 would be the Charlotte PCCO, which was adopted with a Tree Save requirement that doesn’t exist in either state or federal law. While the existing federal NPDES permit would likely keep most of the PCCO intact, REBIC believes this provision could be challenged under the new law.

But it’s the elimination of the Protest Petition process that would have the greatest impact on property owners and developers, by removing a burdensome and costly process that effectively allows a small minority of citizens to hold a rezoning case hostage by forcing a supermajority vote. Should S 112 be signed by Governor McCrory, it will immediately make protest petitions a thing of the past, with the exception of those already filed.

Special thanks to House bill sponsors Rep. Tim Moffitt (R-Buncombe), Rep. Tom Murray (R-Wake) and Rep. Bill Brawley (R-Mecklenburg) who ensured that the provisions important to the real estate industry stayed in the bill, despite numerous amendments to remove them. Thanks also to Representatives Rob Bryan, Tricia Cotham, Becky Carney, Charles Jeter, Rodney Moore, Ruth Samuelson, Jacqueline Schaffer, who voted “YES” on the bill.

REBIC is working with the North Carolina Home Builders Association (NCHBA) to encourage Senate leadership to bring S 112 to the floor for concurrence as soon as possible, and will keep you appraised of the bill’s progress.

Regulatory Reform Bill Passes State Senate

legbuildingThe North Carolina Senate approved legislation this week that would make big changes to environmental permitting, and could roll back portions of local regulations that exceed state mandates, including Charlotte’s Post- Construction Controls Stormwater Ordinance (PCCO).

SB 612, the Regulatory Reform Act of 2013, was approved 36 – 11 in a Thursday afternoon vote, and now heads to the House for consideration. This legislation would provide regulatory relief to the citizens of North Carolina by:

  • Prohibiting cities and counties from enacting ordinances that are more stringent that existing state or federal regulations;
  • Creating a fast-track permitting process for stormwater and erosion control plans when certain minimum standards have been met and certified by the applicant’s engineer;
  • Allowing third-parties to a request a review of existing state rules through the NC Rules Review Commission;
  • No longer defining gravel as an impervious surface or “Built-Upon Area;”
  • Allowing brick and wood debris to be used as fill on development sites;
  • Clarifying the laws relating to groundwater compliance boundaries; and
  • Amending the prohibition on master metering to permit an all inclusive lease in a multi-family property.

Language that would have eliminated riparian buffer requirements on property in the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico River basins was removed by amendment during the floor debate, but could re-emerge in more limited form when the bill reaches the House. While this language would not affect the Charlotte area, both the North Carolina Association of REALTORS (NCAR) and the North Carolina Home Builders Association (NCHBA) have been advocating for a provision to grandfather lots platted prior to the effective date of the basin rules.

One such local ordinance that could be impacted by the passage of SB 612 would be the Charlotte PCCO, which was adopted with stricter redevelopment standards than are called for in state law. This one amendment, which REBIC has long advocated for, could save developers millions in infrastructure costs and substantially open the market for redevelopment of long-neglected intown sites. However, existing federal stormwater law may prevent any significant changes to the PCCO.

REBIC and members of the Charlotte Chamber Land Use Committee are meeting with City of Charlotte officials on May 13 to discuss how SB 612 may affect local regulation. We’ll continue to track the progress of this bill and other regulatory reform legislation, and advocate for their passage in the General Assembly.

General Assembly Tackles Regulatory Reform

nc-state-legislature-building-legislative-branchLegislation introduced last week in the General Assembly would make big changes to environmental permitting, and could roll back portions of local regulations that exceed state mandates, including Charlotte’s Post- Construction Controls Stormwater Ordinance.

SB 612, the Regulatory Reform Act of 2013, was introduced by Sens. Harry Brown (R-Onslow); Brent Jackson (R-Duplin) and Andrew Brock (R-Davie). This legislation would provide regulatory relief to the citizens of North Carolina by:

  • Prohibiting cities and counties from enacting ordinances that are more stringent that existing state or federal regulations;
  • Creating a fast-track permitting process for stormwater and erosion control plans when certain minimum standards have been met and certified by the applicant’s engineer;
  • Allowing third-parties to a request a review of existing state rules through the NC Rules Review Commission;
  • Allowing brick and wood debris to be used as fill on development sites;
  • Clarifying the laws relating to groundwater compliance boundaries;
  • Amending the prohibition on master metering to permit an all inclusive lease in a multi-family property; and,
  • Eliminating riparian buffer requirements on property in the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico River basins.

One such local ordinance that would be impacted by the passage of SB 612 would be the Charlotte PCCO, which was adopted with stricter redevelopment standards than are called for in state law. This one amendment, which REBIC has long advocated for, could save developers millions in infrastructure costs and substantially open the market for redevelopment of long-neglected intown sites.

Regulatory Reform has been tackled in each of the past two legislative sessions, and the 2013 General Assembly seems committed to taking additional steps to improve North Carolina’s standing as a business-friendly state that can attract economic development and new jobs.

We’ll continue to track the progress of SB 612 and other regulatory reform legislation, and advocate for their passage in partnership with the North Carolina Home Builders Association (NCHBA), the Charlotte Chapter of NAIOP, and the North Carolina Association of REALTORS.