By Chad Meadows, Legislative Chair
After a somewhat slow start to this year’s short session, the General Assembly has recently stepped up bill filling – as of this writing, there are over 60 pieces of legislation under consideration in each chamber. In addition to proposed legislation, the General Assembly has already passed four laws this session, with one (SL 2020-3) of particular importance to North Carolina planners as it provides guidance for remote hearings and extends the deadline for compliance with the zoning-related portions of “160D”.
Session Law 2020-3
Session Law 2020-3 is titled an Act to Provide Aid to North Carolinians in Response to the Corona Virus Disease 2019 Crisis, and can be found at https://www.ncleg.gov/EnactedLegislation/SessionLaws/PDF/2019-2020/SL2020-3.pdf
Page 61 of the Session Law includes a number of statutory updates regarding conduct of remote public hearings during declared emergencies. The rules establish minimum requirements for remote meetings and hearings (including quasi-judicial hearings) that address aspects such as simultaneous communication, quorum, voting, and the ability for participants to be heard by all attending the remote meeting. The language provides the legal pretext for conducting such meetings, but does not contain copious details on allowable techniques, standing, or evidentiary procedures.
Section 4.33 on Page 65 of the Session Law extends the effective date of the pending 160D changes from January 1, 2021 to August 1, 2021 – in other words, local governments now have until August 1, 2021 to ensure their local development regulations are in alignment with the 160D provisions. The timing associated with mandatory adoption of a comprehensive plan by July 1, 2022 in order to retain zoning authority remains unchanged.
Section 4.40 on Page 67 extends the expiration period and associated vesting status for local government “development approvals” by five months for an approval current and valid between March 10, 2020 and April 28, 2020. In this context, development approvals include: building permits, development permits, plats, site-specific development plans, erosion/sedimentation control plans, and development agreements.
In addition to these three main provisions, there are provisions in Section 4.34 regarding the ability to adopt floodplain maps by reference, and Section 4.42 clarifies that COGs may assist in the administration of public assistance by FEMA.
There are several pending bills of interest to planners as well. Chief among them is Senate Bill 720, which was filed on May 13, and may be seen at https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2019/S720.
This bill provides a series of further edits and revisions to the forthcoming 160D provisions. As you may recall, 160D was initially Part 2 of Session Law 2019-111. Part I included a series of omnibus revisions to the statutes pertaining to permit choice, vested rights, the ability for some appeals to skip the BOA and go directly to Superior Court, requirements for written consent from applicants for the imposition of conditions of approval, and a variety of other regulatory reforms. SB 720 incorporates these provisions from SL 2019-111 into the 160D regulations. SB 720 clarifies that local development regulations adopted to implement 160D become effective upon their adoption date, and are not required to be delayed until August 1, 2021.
There are a few other bills of interest moving through the General Assembly now, including:
- HB1124 that allocates $100,000,000 to the NC Housing Trust Fund https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2019/H1124;
- SB739 – rules pertaining to delivery robots https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2019/S739; and
- SB 769 – increased recognition of the need for municipal broadband expansion (though the bill does not authorize local governments to provide broadband services) https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2019/S769.
The Legislative Committee will continue to track pending legislation. We have not yet resumed our twice-monthly legislation conference calls, but are hoping to begin conducting them again in June. We will let everyone know with a post on the list serv and the APA-NC webpage.
Legislative Adaptation Workshop
As a final note, I wanted to be sure to mention that as part of our newly adopted Strategic Plan, the Legislative Committee will be conducting a half-day Legislative Adaptation workshop on October 20 in Durham, with an emphasis on model language that can be used to achieve compliance with the 160D provisions. It will be a great opportunity to obtain model language for your ordinance or get some insights on how your proposed language compares with changes from other local governments around the state. We will be seeking 3 hours of legal CM credit for the workshop. Be on the lookout for more details on this workshop over the summer.