Written by Chad Meadows, AICP
Legislative Committee Chairman
2014 was another difficult year for planning at the General Assembly. This year’s short session, like the long session in 2013, was fraught with rapid fire legislative proposals, complex catch-all omnibus bills, tax reforms that spell the end to several revenue sources, and a budget that cost several state planners their jobs. The following list summarizes key planning-related legislation that passed the General Assembly in 2014. This post also includes some details on the legislation that didn’t pass (but may be back in 2015)
Bill #: Title/Description Summary
- S865 – Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction ETJ authority removed from Boone (and Weaverville).
- H1050 – Privilege Licenses Local governments can levy privilege license taxes for the rest of FY 2014 (and the amount may not exceed the amount charged in 2013). After FY 2014 ends, privilege license taxes will no longer be authorized.
- S734 – Vested Rights (Choice Provision) In cases where an applicant submits an application and the regulation changes after submittal but before a decision is made, a local government must allow the applicant to choose which rules they wish to follow. Does not apply to “zoning” permits, but does apply to subdivision rules and any development regulations housed outside the zoning code.
- S786 – Environmental Omnibus (Fracking) Allows the state Energy Commission to override local development regulations if the Commission finds the local regulations prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting oil and gas exploration/production.
- S402 (Budget) – Historic Preservation Tax Credits/Film Industry Incentives Current historic preservation tax credits (20% tax credit match from NC) & film industry incentives (25% refund) will sunset at the end of 2014.
- H625 – Temporary Health Care Structure Bars local governments from requiring special or conditional use permits for small health care structures of 300 sf in size or less and sited as an accessory to a single-family home. Structure intended to serve one mentally or physically ill patient who is related to the homeowner. Must be removed within 60 days of the end of care-giving.
- H573 – Flood Hazard Zones Farm uses in an ETJ may be exempt from zoning, but shall be subject to county floodplain regulations.
- H366 – Regulation of Fertilizer Local governments may not regulate use, sale, storage, manufacturing, or application of fertilizer – but local governments may still protect public safety and water quality.
- S614 – Tall Buildings Near Military Bases Review of buildings over 200 feet tall within 5 miles of military base from Building Code Council to State Construction Office.
- H201 – Building Code Additions to pre-2012 commercial buildings may use 2011 energy efficiency/conservation rules.
- S859 – Vacation Rentals Allows Cornelius to regulate vacation rentals and transient occupancy uses in residential districts
This year, the APA-NC Legislative Committee will be breaking with convention in the process of identifying the Chapter’s 2015 legislative agenda. In years past, the Legislative Committee has conducted round-robin discussions with NC planners to identify issues of concern to address in the subsequent year’s legislative agenda. This year, the Committee hopes to base the legislative agenda on anticipated legislation. One key area of anticipated legislation is derived from bills that were proposed during this year’s short session, but which were not voted on. For example, this year’s short session included (again) limitations on the ability of local governments to adopt and enforce aesthetic controls on single-family homes. We also saw proposed legislation that sought to bar local governments from adopting and enforcing tree protection provisions and new provisions seeking to further relax requirements for outdoor advertising (again). There was proposed legislation to eliminate zoning protest petitions, limiting inspections of construction in progress, and provisions for annual notice to chronic violators of overgrown vegetation rules.
In addition to the legislation that was proposed but not passed, we also know that the regulatory reform study committee of the legislature has indicated it will likely put forward legislation related to exactions in 2015, and that the NC Bar Association is working on a substantial revision to the planning enabling statutes in Chapters 160A and 153. These areas of anticipated legislation will form the basis of the Chapters 2015 legislative agenda.
I’d like to encourage everyone with even a passing interest in planning to consider stopping by the Legislative Committee session at the state planning conference on Wednesday October 1st at 11:00 AM to share in the discussion of our 2015 legislative agenda. This new approach is part of our ongoing effort to enhance our effectiveness and advocate for sound planning practices as a means of securing prosperity for all North Carolina citizens. I hope to see you there!