Recent Blog Posts

  • Excusing Board Members from Voting on the Budget

    Authored by: on Monday, June 19th, 2017

    North Carolina city and county governing board members have a duty to vote. The general voting statutes, G.S. 153A-44 (counties) and G.S. 160A-75 (cities), allow members to be excused from voting on matters involving their “own financial interest.” What if the annual budget contains provisions that affect a board member’s financial interest? Is the member prohibited from voting on the whole budget, or perhaps on only parts of the budget? And how would a board member come to have a financial interest in the budget? Isn’t it illegal for board members to contract with their units of government? This blog post describes some common scenarios involving the issue of budget approval and board member financial interests, and suggests a strategy for addressing it. Read more »

  • Subdivision Legislation: An Old Exemption and a New Expedited Review

    Authored by: on Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

    During the 2017 legislative session lawmakers adopted Session Law 2017-10 (S131), a law addressing an array of regulatory topics, including local zoning and subdivision regulations.  With regard to subdivision regulations, Section 2.5 of S.L. 2017-10 adds one new category to the list of exempt subdivisions: divisions to settle an estate.  The new law also creates expedited review for qualifying subdivisions greater than five acres.  The former is straightforward and codifies prior caselaw into the statutes.  The latter requires some interpretation and explanation.

    These changes to subdivision statutes are effective July 1, 2017.  Land subdivisions after that date are subject to these new rules, and cities and counties should amend their ordinances to comply.

    This blog explores these changes enacted in S.L. 2017-10 concerning subdivisions. Read more »

  • Fighting Blight with Property Tax Bills

    Authored by: on Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

    How can a city more effectively fight blight—vacant, abandoned, and dilapidated housing? The city of High Point tried to find some answers last year with help from the Center for Community Progress and the UNC School of Government.

    My economic development expert colleague Tyler Mulligan and I were honored to play a part in this extensive effort that included a variety of city departments, Guilford County officials, and neighborhood organizations. Tyler focused on how best to navigate housing code enforcement law. My focus was on how best to use property tax collection remedies to recoup housing code enforcement costs.  You can read the full report produced by the Center for Community Progress here; today’s blog summarizes the relevant property tax collection issues.

    My advice to High Point and other cities combating blight was simple: use your property tax bills! Read more »

  • Big Changes for Immaterial Irregularity Billing?

    Authored by: on Thursday, May 18th, 2017

    G.S. 105-394, the immaterial irregularities provision, functions much like a giant “reset” button for local tax offices.  It allows a tax collector to issue retroactive bills (plus interest) for all property taxes that were omitted due to a mistake by the tax office.

    Assume Blue Devil City annexed Parcel A twenty years ago but for some reason never levied taxes on Parcel A.  Perhaps the county assessor failed to code the property as city property or perhaps mistakes were made by the city when it finalized the annexation.  Regardless, under G.S. 105-394 the city can send to the owner of Parcel A twenty years of retroactive tax bills with interest from the date each of those year’s bills would have become delinquent had they been billed correctly.

    This result would change if Senate Bill 616 becomes law.   Read more »

  • New Rules for Online Access to Databases and Other Records

    Authored by: on Monday, May 15th, 2017

    The North Carolina public records law provides a broad right of access to inspect and obtain a copy of public records. Increasingly, public agencies make records available on their websites. For example, many cities and counties post downloadable files of meeting agendas, attachments, and minutes on their websites. Does posting records online meet an agency’s obligation to provide records under the public records law? In other words, if a person requests a copy of an agenda that is available online, can the public agency simply refer the requester to the online copy instead of providing a separate copy upon request? Starting July 1, 2017, the answer will be “yes.” Read more »

  • Five Common Property Tax Collection Questions & Answers

    Authored by: on Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

    Are property taxes levied for the calendar year or a fiscal year?

    Property taxes seem tied to the calendar year, given the January 1 listing date.  But property taxes are actually levied for the fiscal year running from July 1 to June 30 each year. It’s especially confusing because you won’t find any definition of the fiscal year in the Machinery Act. Read more »

  • Does the HB2 Repeal Limit Zoning Authority?

    Authored by: on Thursday, April 20th, 2017

    House Bill 142—the HB2 repeal—includes a provision that prevents local governments from adopting or amending ordinances “regulating public accommodations” until December 2020.  Does that mean a local government in North Carolina cannot amend a zoning ordinance relating to restaurants, hotels, or other places of public accommodation? Are property owners required to wait until December 2020 to request and obtain a commercial rezoning?

    Very likely no.  The language of House Bill 142 and common rules of statutory interpretation indicate that House Bill 142 is limited to matters of bathroom access, private employment practices, and nondiscrimination ordinances.  As outlined below, it appears that House Bill 142 does not prevent conventional zoning ordinances or rezoning requests.  Read more »