Recent Blog Posts

  • Changing Property Tax Values in a Pandemic

    Authored by: on Tuesday, December 1st, 2020

    How should the pandemic affect property tax values for 2021?  The answer depends on (1) whether the property is personal or real and (2) whether the county is conducting a real property reappraisal in 2021.  Read on for the details. Read more »

  • Local Residents Only: May Nonresidents be Precluded from Enjoying Public Recreation Facilities?

    Authored by: on Tuesday, December 1st, 2020

    A town recently constructed a recreational center that offers an indoor pool, exercise equipment, and fitness classes. Several town residents have asked the town council to limit use of the facility to town residents and their invited guests. The residents are concerned that the center will become overcrowded if nonresidents can join the facility. Because the town funded the construction of the recreational center with local taxes, the council has agreed to restrict membership to town residents to ensure that they may fully enjoy the space. May the town legally restrict the new facility in this way?

    Read more »

  • Civil Penalties for Violations of State Emergency Orders?

    Authored by: on Monday, November 30th, 2020

    [Update (12/14/2020): On December 10, 2020, the North Carolina Department of Justice issued an informal opinion letter that differs from the opinion that I reach in this blog post. In the post, I conclude that cities and counties probably lack statutory authority to implement civil penalties to enforce the Governor’s COVID-19 orders. The December 10 opinion from the Department of Justice concludes that cities and counties do have the authority. On December 11, the Governor wrote to local government officials encouraging them to enact such civil penalties. The good-faith interpretation of law frequently involves disagreement. The DOJ opinion is here and the Governor’s letter is here.]

    Some cities and counties are evaluating what more they might do to reduce the spread of COVID-19. One proposal that has received considerable attention would have them impose civil penalties for violations of the Governor’s COVID-19 executive orders, especially provisions that mandate the wearing of face coverings and prohibit mass gatherings. This blog post concludes that cities and counties probably lack statutory authority to implement that proposal, thanks largely to a legal doctrine that generally prevents them from forbidding conduct that’s already illegal under state law.

    Read more »

  • Systemic Bias and Property Taxes

    Authored by: on Monday, November 23rd, 2020

    The social justice protests that erupted in many areas of the country this summer focused mostly on law enforcement.  But systemic bias can infect any area of government, even the seemingly objective world of property tax administration.  For proof, check out the results of a large national property tax study released earlier this year:

    Based on an analysis of 118 million home sales across the nation over the past ten years, the study concluded that Black-owned homes are more likely to be assessed at higher values relative to their sale price. In nearly every state, tax assessments were higher relative to sales prices in areas with higher Black and Hispanic populations.

    Does this mean that our nation’s assessors and tax collectors are racist? Of course not. The fact that some government systems consistently produce results that are biased against minorities does not mean that the people who administer those systems are personally biased against minorities.  Recognizing that systemic bias exists is not an accusation.  It’s a call to action.  It creates an obligation on behalf of all of us involved in administering these systems to determine why these systems are producing unintentionally biased results and to make the changes necessary to minimize these biases.

    Read more »

  • Challenging the Results in Elections to Council of State Offices and the General Assembly: How is it Done?

    Authored by: on Friday, November 20th, 2020

    [For a fuller discussion, with statutory citations, click]

    North Carolina’s election laws provide two different ways for losing candidates to challenge an election—one way for most elections and one way for top state offices.

    For the great majority of elective offices, the challenge consists of an election protest that is initiated in the county boards of elections, decided by the State Board of Elections, and appealed to the superior court of Wake County and then to the appellate courts.  The courts make the final decision.  This is the way protests work for county offices, city offices, school boards, and judicial offices.

    But for two sets of offices the courts do not make the final decision.  For those offices—Council of State seats (including governor, lt. governor, attorney general and six other executive branch offices) and seats in the North Carolina Senate and House of Representatives—the final decision in an election challenge rests with the General Assembly, not the courts.

    How do the two kinds of challenges fit together? Read more »

  • Extension Extended: General Assembly Expands Development Permit Extension

    Authored by: on Tuesday, October 20th, 2020

    To relieve downward economic pressures on land development resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the North Carolina General Assembly has extended the term of most development approvals three times: on May 4, 2020, on September 4, 2020, and on March 11, 2021. This post discusses these extensions and what they mean for permit holders and permit issuers. Read more »

  • Chapter 160D Deadlines and Transitions

    Authored by: on Thursday, October 8th, 2020

    Chapter 160D is the updated statutory authority for development regulations like zoning and subdivision in North Carolina. This new chapter of the North Carolina General Statutes consolidates the city- and county-enabling statutes for development regulations (previously under Chapters 153A and 160A) into a single, unified chapter. Since Chapter 160D was first adopted in 2019 and amended in 2020, there has been confusion about—and changes to—the deadlines for implementation and the transition from the old statutes to the new. This blog seeks to provide a bit of clarity for this confusing topic. Read more »