North Carolina’s General Assembly has slowly been wresting control over the past few years of land-use and development issues from its municipalities. The trend appears likely to continue this year.
Bills have been introduced — and met various levels of success — that would block local regulation of everything from tree removal to construction standards.
Recently, a special House Select Committee on Residential Planning and Permitting began holding hearings on the issue of whether local governments were being overly restrictive of home construction.
State Rep. Mark Brody, a Republican from Union County, is leading the hearings and indicated he intends to run a bill this year that would reduce the regulations that could be imposed on builders in North Carolina communities.
“We’re here to say, ‘If you give the OK to build, then don’t put other conditions in that are over and above what are required,’” Brody said in an interview with the Carolina Public Press.
Maybe we should call this the “Trailers on Slabs Preservation Act?”
Snubbing Their Noses?
Brody wants a statewide standard that would apply to all builders, so they all know what to expect. Yet we are not all the same. What it takes to build a home at the coast is different from building a home in Aberdeen, which is different from building a home in the Triangle or Asheville. Regardless of where it’s built, it should have a quality and sturdiness that holds up to more than just a stiff breeze.
When a developer approaches a municipality with a plan now, he usually must first pass muster with the professional staff before going before an all-volunteer, advisory Planning Board. From there, a town or village council considers the project.
Depending on what’s being proposed, a municipality might require a traffic study, or a survey of how the project will affect schools or other government services. And if a rezoning is required to accommodate the development, then a semi-judicial hearing might be required, at which special requirements might be instituted. That’s called a conditional-use permit, and they are the bane of builders, who long have lobbied for their death.
Brody, himself a licensed general contractor — surprise! — thinks municipalities are overstepping their bounds. It won’t surprise you to learn his committee’s recent hearing featured other builders complaining about that very thing.
"They are openly snubbing their noses at the laws that you pass to address housing affordability,” said Cary-based developer Tom Anhut, “while complaining that the housing being built is not affordable to the residents.”
The state’s League of Municipalities, which represents towns and cities, has resisted this centralization.
"Typically at the local level the local, officials deciding these issues have weighed a number of distinct local factors and all of the constituencies affected by these decisions,” said Scott Mooneyham, director of political communications and coordination for the N.C. League of Municipalities. “Attempting to do this at the state level with a one-size-fits-all solution from Raleigh would upend that balance and likely lead to decisions that would fail to take into account all interests," he said.
Should Raleigh get its way, imagine our towns where developers aren’t told to protect old-growth trees, don’t accept responsibility for road improvements their projects require or are allowed to construct homes out of proportion and character with those surrounding them.
Tract home builders are like water — always looking for the easiest way out. You think we have a growth problem now in Moore County? Just wait.
Unquestionably, we have a shortage of affordable housing in Moore County for the working class. But builders bypassing government input to throw up any ol’ thing isn’t the answer for communities. Only by working together on acceptable plans and common goals can our towns grow successfully. Raleigh has yet to realize that.