Recent Blog Posts

  • New Rural Economic Development Division and Other 2013 North Carolina Legislation

    Authored by: on Friday, August 2nd, 2013

    The North Carolina General Assembly wrapped up the 2013 session after approving several pieces of legislation related to community economic development (CED). This post summarizes some of the major legislation of interest to public officials, such as progress toward a statewide public-private partnership for economic development, the establishment of a Rural Economic Development Division at the NC Department of Commerce, unprecedented Community Development Block Grant allocations, preservation of certain economic development incentive programs, and more.

    Public-Private Partnership for Economic Development

    In the Appropriations Act of 2013, the Secretary of the Department of Commerce was granted flexibility to reorganize the department and to establish a public-private partnership for economic development, presumably with a new private nonprofit entity. No other details for the new nonprofit were included in the authorizing provision, as more specific requirements for the nonprofit were to be provided in a separate bill, SB 127, which was not taken up prior to adjournment. Although not enacted into law, SB 127 is worth a look because Read more »

  • Nuisance Abatement and Local Governments: What a Mess – Part II

    Authored by: on Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

    Several years ago I prepared a blog entitled “Nuisance Abatement and Local Governments: What a Mess.” At the end of that blog I promised a sequel to take up several other legal issues related to nuisance abatement and building condemnation. Here is that sequel. One issue concerns the nature of the process that must be used by a local government to abate a nuisance or condemn a building. In administrative proceedings particularly, what due process is due? The second issue involves the seizure or destruction of property that can occur when a local government takes direct action to abate a nuisance or demolish a dilapidated building after the owner fails to remedy the conditions that give rise to the problem. Can there be a violation of an individual’s legal rights when a local government or its contractor goes onto private property to destroy the offending property condition? These are the subjects of “Nuisance Abatement and Local Governments: What a Mess – Part II.” Read more »

  • Planning Board Basics

    Authored by: on Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

    The local planning board may take many forms and perform many roles.  The core responsibilities are clearly set forth by statute.  The General Statutes also grant fairly wide ranging authority for additional responsibilities, giving local governments the ability to use the planning board in a variety of ways.  This blog outlines the basic requirements for planning boards and explores those options for additional activities.    Read more »

  • Protest Petitions: Going or Staying?

    Authored by: on Friday, July 19th, 2013

    UPDATE: Although this bill was not adopted, in 2015 the General Assembly did abolish the supermajority requirement for adopting zoning map amendments if a protest petition had been filed. S.L. 2015-160 allows written protests to be filed with the city clerk and requires those objections be presented to the council, but provides that a simple majority is required to adopt the amendment. This law also provides that if a council member is present and has not been excused from voting, but does not vote, that is not automatically counted as an affirmative vote on any proposed zoning amendment. This change in the law applies to zoning amendments initiated on or after August 1, 2015.

    It is common in the waning days of legislative sessions for new and controversial issues to suddenly arise.  This year one of those late session surprises has been a move to repeal the zoning protest petition statute. 

    A proposal to repeal the statute was added to a broad regulatory reform bill by the House Committee on Regulatory Reform on July 10 and approved by the full House on July 11.  On July 19 the Senate adopted its version of this bill, which does not include the protest petition repeal. 

    What is a zoning protest petition?

    The protest petition allows those most directly affected by a proposed zoning map amendment to make a formal objection (a protest petition) and thereby trigger a requirement that the amendment can only be adopted if approved by a three-fourths majority of the city council.  If a person buys property zoned for commercial use and the city council later considers rezoning it to a less intensive use, that person can file a protest petition and trigger this supermajority voting requirement.  Similarly, if someone buys a lot that is zoned for single-family residential use and after building their home the city council considers rezoning the lot next door to allow a fast food restaurant, that adjacent homeowner can file a protest petition and the zoning change can be made only if at least three quarters of the city council agrees to do so.

    How did this special voting rule come to be a part of zoning ordinances? Who can trigger the higher voting majority?  Why has this emerged as a late hot topic in the legislature? Read more »

  • Road Trips Raise the Darndest Questions

    Authored by: on Friday, July 19th, 2013

    I was on vacation with my family last week, and there’s nothing quite like a drive across our fair state to spur interest in motor vehicle laws. Here are a few of the questions that my clan raised along the way. Read more »

  • It’s All Relative

    Authored by: on Thursday, July 18th, 2013

    When it’s filing season for people seeking city or county offices, questions often arise about who can run. Can the spouse of a current board member run? What about the spouse of a current employee? How about the adult child of a sitting board member? These questions imply that there may be some type of conflict of interest when people who have close family or other relationships work for or serve the same unit of government.

    Read more »

  • Bankruptcy, Registration Blocks, and The New Property Tax System for RMVs

    Authored by: on Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

    [UPDATED 8/24/16]

    Big changes are on the horizon for all North Carolina drivers.  Under the state’s new “Tax and Tag Together” program (aka “H.B. 1779” among property tax geeks) that will launch in September, anyone who wishes to renew a vehicle registration or obtain a new registration will be required to pay local property taxes on the vehicle at the time of registration.  Under the current property tax system, owners are billed for taxes on their vehicles about three months after registration.  The hope is that the new system will greatly increase motor vehicle tax collection rates while at the same time making taxpayers’ lives easier by combining the two transactions (registration and tax payment) into one.

    The new system transfers most of the collection responsibility for property taxes on registered motor vehicles (“RMVs”) from the counties to the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles.  But counties will still play an important role in the process, about which I’ll be blogging and teaching over the next few months.

    Today’s post focuses on an issue that arose under the current RMV tax system but takes on even greater importance under the “Tax and Tag Together” program: can the DMV refuse to register a vehicle based on the owner’s failure to pay RMV taxes if that owner is in bankruptcy? Read more »