Recent Blog Posts

  • Is My Couch Taxable? Personal Property Taxes and Short-Term Rentals

    Authored by: on Thursday, November 15th, 2018

    I stumbled across a headline in the San Francisco Chronicle that read: Airbnb ‘furniture tax’ generates $120,000 for San Francisco. The article explains that the city requires hosts on Airbnb and other short-term rental sites to tally the contents of their homes—from sheets to sofas to silverware—so that the contents may be taxed. The average tax bill came to $60 per property. This made me think. Are the owners of short-term rental (STR) properties in North Carolina aware that they too must pay a similar tax? Read more »

  • Syringe Exchange Programs and Land Use Zoning

    Authored by: on Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

    North Carolina communities face the ongoing and complex challenge of the opioid epidemic. One tool for addressing the public health harms related to opioid use is the implementation of syringe exchange programs. Legalized in North Carolina in 2016, syringe exchange programs provide sterile syringes and supplies, safe syringe disposal, and the overdose-reversal drug naloxone, as well as connect individuals to treatment. Because they are relatively new to many communities, questions have arisen. What are syringe exchanges programs? And how do they relate to the local zoning ordinance?

    This blog outlines the basics. First, the blog provides an overview of how syringe exchange programs operate and the public health considerations for implementing them. Next, the blog provides an introduction to land use zoning and considers how local zoning might (or might not) apply to a syringe exchange program. Read more »

  • Disaster Recovery Legislation Imposes Building Permit and Inspection Fee Moratorium Effective NOW

    Authored by: on Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

    By a unanimous vote in both chambers on Monday evening (October 15th), the General Assembly quickly approved and Governor Cooper signed legislation appropriating almost four hundred million dollars in disaster relief for communities and individuals impacted by Hurricane Florence.  The full text of Senate Bill 3 (SB3), the 2018 Hurricane Florence Disaster Recovery Act, is available here, and the accompanying committee report detailing the disaster relief line item appropriations is available here.  Governor Cooper’s Hurricane Florence Recovery Recommendations Report is available here.  Not only did SB3 appropriate funds for a variety of disaster relief programs, the legislation also reserved an additional four hundred million dollars in the Hurricane Florence Disaster Recovery Fund for disaster assistance that the legislature may take action on when it reconvenes on November 27th.  Of particular interest to city and county planning and zoning officials and building inspectors is a moratorium on building permit, inspection, and certificate of occupancy fees in declared jurisdictions for projects related to Hurricane Florence damage.  Read more »

  • Temporary Signs in the Right-of-Way

    Authored by: on Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

    It’s that time of year again. Leaves are falling and campaign signs are rising. Along with the signs come the questions about the laws and limits for regulating campaign signs. This can be a confusing topic because of the ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in Reed v. Town of Gilbert and because of the overlapping authority between local governments and the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT).

    Legal issues affecting the regulation of campaign signs include:

    • Free speech protections limiting the regulation of sign content;
    • Differences between regulations on private property and regulations on public property; and
    • Differences between regulations on state maintained rights-of-way and municipally maintained rights-of-way.

    This blog describes the basic aspects of these legal issues with a focus on regulations in the public right-of-way.

    Read more »

  • Regions, Regions, Regions: Untangling Different Concepts in Social Services Reform

    Authored by: on Monday, October 15th, 2018

    When the General Assembly enacted S.L. 2017-41 (H 630) in June 2017, it set several wheels in motion related to reform of the social services system (See legislation; SOG summary). Some of the ideas addressed in the reform conversation involve “regions” or inter-county collaborations. These ideas are often referred to as “regionalization,” but that term is simply too broad to be helpful. There are at least four distinct “regional” conversations underway, and they really need to be differentiated. My goal today is to abandon the term “regionalization” and clarify terminology for these social services reform conversations moving forward.  To that end, this blog post will review the reform ideas related to regional social services work, give them unique names, and provide a brief update on the progress of these conversations.

    Read more »

  • Non-Profits, Commercial Activity, and Property Tax Exemptions

    Authored by: on Wednesday, October 10th, 2018

    Unless you are in desperate need of a sleep aid, I assume you don’t normally read law journals.  But my friend Tom Kelley from the UNC Law School and I just published an article in the UNC Law Review on North Carolina property tax exemptions that might be worth your time.  Unlike most law journal articles that are written for other law profs, our article should be useful to folks outside the ivory towers of academia. Tom and I wrote “North Carolina’s Property Tax Exemption Conundrum,” to examine how non-profits that engage in commercial activity across our state are treated when seeking religious, educational, and charitable property tax exemptions.  We conclude that this treatment is inconsistent and often too restrictive, and we offer some suggestions on how local tax offices might consider resolving these difficult exemptions questions in the future.  Read more »

  • Temporary Housing and Zoning Amendments

    Authored by: on Friday, October 5th, 2018

    As communities begin the long recovery process in the wake of Hurricane Florence, many residents will need temporary housing. One challenge, though, is the zoning ordinance.  Most zoning ordinances strictly limit manufactured homes and recreational vehicles (RVs). As the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) looks to deploy temporary housing and as residents look for housing alternatives, local governments may need to amend zoning ordinances temporarily. This blog outlines policy considerations for permitting temporary housing, as well as the process for quickly acting on a zoning ordinance amendment. Read more »