Recent Blog Posts

  • Legal Authority for Peddler Permit Fees

    Authored by: on Monday, September 22nd, 2014

    The General Assembly’s enactment of Session Law 2014-3 will eventually result in the elimination of nearly all local privilege license taxes. (My colleague Chris McLaughlin has blogged about the impact of S.L. 2014-3 on local governments here and here.) School of Government faculty members have received inquiries from local officials worried that S.L. 2014-3 applies to the fees that cities and counties charge for permits issued to peddlers and other itinerant salespeople (“peddler permit fees”). This blog post examines the legal basis for peddler permit fees and explains why S.L. 2014-3 does not curtail the authority of local governments to impose them. Read more »

  • Property Taxes and Non-Profits

    Authored by: on Friday, September 19th, 2014

    The tax status of real and personal property owned or used by charitable non-profit organizations can get complicated when there are multiple private and public entities involved with the property.  Is property exempt if it is owned by a non-profit organization and leased to other non-profits? What if it is leased to a mixture of non- and for-profit organizations? Does it matter if the non-profit organizations are 501(c)(3) certified? What if a government owns the property and leases it to a non-profit?

    This blog attempts to unravel some of these knotty non-profit problems. Read more »

  • How Public Are Law Enforcement Vehicle or Body Camera Videos? (Not Very, in North Carolina.)

    Authored by: on Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

    [Update: Legislation clarifying the status of vehicle and body-worn camera recordings under the North Carolina public records law was enacted in July, 2016. The law is summarized in a blog post here.]

    “We may have reached the point where video technology is producing a full-fledged revolution in policing. That revolution has been crystalized, or at least revealed by, the events in Ferguson. The first element of that revolution is a growing expectation among Americans that any dramatic event that takes place in public will be recorded on video.”

    This statement is from a recent article posted to the ACLU website. The lack of video documentation in the Ferguson shooting has sparked a call for cameras to be a standard requirement for law enforcement in vehicles and on the officers’ bodies. A recent U.S. Department of Justice sponsored report “Implementing a Body Worn Camera Program: Recommendations and Lessons Learned” describes the benefits and challenges of body worn cameras. The report includes specific recommendations for implementation, balancing law enforcement, community, and privacy concerns. An introductory comment in the report observes that “A police department that deploys body-worn cameras is making a statement that it believes the actions of its officers are a matter of public record…” It’s clear that the call for video documentation of police/citizen interactions is very much about transparency, and that the expectation is that videos will be available to the public. As North Carolina cities and counties prepare to respond to the call for transparency, it’s important to consider the limitations that North Carolina law imposes on the release of these types of records. Read more »

  • NC Local Governments, Meet Your New State Partner for Economic Development

    Authored by: on Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

    North Carolina local governments have a new partner in their economic development efforts. Session Law 2014-18 authorizes the North Carolina Department of Commerce to enter into a contract with a nonprofit entity in order to carry out many of the Department’s economic development recruiting and marketing functions for the state. The nonprofit entity has already been incorporated and dubbed the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. In order to assist local governments with understanding their new economic development partner, this post describes the enabling legislation and some of the significant requirements imposed on the entity. Read more »

  • Consistently Inconsistent? Considering Consistency Statements for Zoning Amendments

    Authored by: on Monday, September 15th, 2014

    When the city council or county commission considers a rezoning or zoning ordinance amendment the board must approve a statement about the amendment’s consistency with adopted plans and public interest. According to the statute “[t]hat statement is not subject to judicial review.” And yet we have two recent examples of North Carolina courts reviewing consistency statements. What gives? This blog reviews the statutory requirements, the recent cases, and some guidance for moving forward.

    Read more »

  • Meet the Granny Pod: New Zoning Protection for Temporary Family Health Care Structures

    Authored by: on Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

    Extended families residing together were commonplace in the early 20th century. In the 1920s most zoning ordinances allowed rooms in single family homes to be rented to boarders. It was also not uncommon at that time for single family homes to have an accessory dwelling unit. These came in a variety of settings – a basement, attic, or garage apartment, a “mother-in-law” suite, or, in larger homes, separate quarters for domestic help.

    Single-family zoning districts began to be made more restrictive after World War II. Charlotte’s 1951 zoning ordinance, for example, allowed accessory dwelling units in its “Residence 1” zoning district, but only for servants’ quarters in the rear yard. In language that conjures images from “The Help,” the Charlotte ordinance of that time expressly prohibited garage apartments for rent unless they were “occupied only by servants in the employ of the occupants of the main residence.” Over the following decades even this limited permitted use of accessory dwelling units in single-family zoning districts was eliminated in many cities and counties.

    In recent years there has been a renewed interest in permitting some accessory dwelling units in single-family neighborhoods. Advocates suggest more permissive regulations for accessory dwelling expand the range of housing choices, provide more affordable housing, facilitate aging-in-place, and allow modest increases in residential density while retaining the essential character of urban neighborhoods. Opponents worry about over-crowding, traffic, and impacts on neighborhood character and property values.

    A new North Carolina statute may spark renewed attention to the general issue of accessory dwellings by mandating zoning approval for a limited and very specific type of accessory residence – a “temporary family health care structure.” Read more »

  • The FLSA’s Professional Exemption – Part 2: The Computer Professional

    Authored by: on Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

    This is the final post in my series about exemptions to the Fair Labor Standards Act’s requirement that employees be paid a premium time-and-one-half overtime wage for hours over 40 in a workweek. There are three types of exemptions: the executive exemption (discussed here), the administrative exemption (discussed here and here) and the professional exemption. The professional exemption has several distinct tests (not of all of which are relevant to local government). In my last blog post (here), I discussed the learned professional exemption in detail. In this post, I look at the exemption for computer professionals. Read more »