Recent Blog Posts

  • A New Tax Benefit for New Homes

    Authored by: on Thursday, September 17th, 2009

    North Carolina auto dealers don’t pay property taxes on the thousands of new and used cars sitting in their lots awaiting buyers.  Walmart doesn’t pay property taxes on the massive amount of stuff for sale at its nearly 100 big-box stores sprinkled across the state.  Should North Carolina’s home builders get the same tax benefit for their growing inventories of unsold new homes?

    The home builders’ lobby has long thought so, but until this legislative session the General Assembly had declined to include newly constructed homes on the lengthy list of properties that receives beneficial tax treatment.  Read more »

  • Excusing Board Members From Voting

    Authored by: on Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

    State law creates an affirmative duty for local governing board members to vote on matters that come before the board. Last week’s post discussed provisions that allow members to be excused from voting for specific reasons. In all other cases, the assumption is that they must vote. The statutes are mostly silent about the process for deciding whether a board member must vote, or whether instead, the circumstances meet one of the grounds for being excused. There is ample opportunity for mischief here. In close cases or controversial votes, a lot may ride on whether a particular member votes. Read more »

  • When can a local government employee or official buy surplus property from the local government? Part 1

    Authored by: on Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

    Your local government, a mid-sized city in North Carolina, owns 50 laptops that are in working condition but are no longer being used.  Each laptop is worth about $600.  As the Purchasing Manager, you’ve been asked to figure out how to get rid of these laptops.  While you’re trying to decide how to get rid of the laptops, a City Council member calls to ask you whether she can buy one of the laptops (she heard about them from the City Manager).  Apparently, the City Manager has told several city employees about the laptops, too, because one of your friends in the planning department calls to ask you if he can buy a laptop.  Coincidentally, your home computer has just crashed, and your husband has asked you to find a replacement computer as soon as you can. Read more »

  • The Land Development Permit Extension Legislation: Some Applications and Examples

    Authored by: on Monday, September 14th, 2009

    UPDATE Septemeber 2013:  Land development permit extension was extended in 2010 for one additional year.  The suspension period ended December 31, 2011 rather than December 31, 2010. For an analysis of this change see here my blog of August 3, 2010.  

    The recently passed legislation concerning land development permit extensions (Session Law 2009 – 406 (H 831), as amended by Session Law 2009 – 484 (S 838), Session Law 2009 – 550 (H 274), and Session Law 2009 – 572 ( H 1490)) has raised a number of questions.  As a follow-up to the August 28 blog of Dave Owens, I offer the following examples of the new law’s application. Read more »

  • New Special Assessment Authority for Local Governments

    Authored by: on Monday, September 14th, 2009

    UPDATE August 2013: For more detailed information about special assessment authority in North Carolina, click here. Note also that the General Assembly extended the sunset on the new special assessment authority to July 1, 2015. It also made a few modifications to that authority. See S.L. 2013-371.

    For years, North Carolina counties and municipalities have been authorized to impose special assessments on real property to fund certain public improvements that benefit the real property being assessed. During the 2008 and 2009 legislative sessions, the General Assembly bestowed new special assessment authority on local governments—entitled special assessments for critical infrastructure needs—providing units another avenue to fund certain capital projects. (S.L. 2008-165 (HB 1770); S.L. 2009-525 (SB 97)).

    The new special assessment authority became effective on August 3, 2008, and currently expires on July 1, 2013. For a detailed description of the contours of the new authority, including the procedures for imposing the assessments, click here. For a brief summary of the differences between the traditional and new special assessment authorities, read on…. Read more »

  • City and County Attorneys as Public Officers – a Possible Upside

    Authored by: on Friday, September 11th, 2009

    In last week’s blog post, I discussed the status under the public records law of records kept in his or her law office by a local government attorney who serves on a contract basis, rather than as an employee.  I noted that one of the rationales given by the Court of Appeals, in the Kitty Hawk case (181 N.C. App. 1), for holding that the records were subject to public inspection was that the city attorney in the case was a public officer.  In this blog post I want to discuss the potential implications of that holding and rationale for closed sessions under the open meetings law. Read more »

  • Conflicts of Interest: How Do The Voting Statutes Relate to the Criminal Statute?

    Authored by: on Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

    The subject of conflicts of interest for city and county elected officials has both legal and ethical dimensions. In the legal realm, there are two main statutory provisions: 1) the contracting statute, which creates criminal liability when a public official or employee who is involved in making or administering a contract derives a direct benefit from the contract; and 2) the voting statutes for city and county governing boards, which provide that a member shall be excused from voting only upon “matters involving the member’s own financial interest or official conduct.” This post identifies some important differences between the two statutory provisions, and discusses to issues about how they relate to each other. Next week’s post will discuss the process of excusing members from voting. Read more »