Yesterday afternoon, the Mecklenburg County local governments jointly announced a “Stay-At-Home” Proclamation with a number of significant restrictions on citizens and businesses. However, the proclamation explicitly finds that “housing construction” is an essential infrastructure which may continue. It becomes effective at 8:00 am on Thursday, March 26, and applies to Mecklenburg County, the City of Charlotte and the Towns of Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews, Mint Hill and Pineville.
Section 5 of the Proclamation states in part: “Essential Infrastructure. For purposes of this Proclamation, individuals may leave their residence to provide any services or perform any work necessary to offer, provision, operate, maintain and repair Essential Infrastructure [which] includes, but is not limited to: …construction (including, but not limited to, construction required in response to this public health emergency, hospital construction, construction of long-term case facilities, public works construction, and housing construction, building management and maintenance…”
The Proclamation also includes a section entitled “Essential Business and Operations” and subsection 8 thereof is entitled “Critical trades. Building and Construction Tradesmen and Tradeswomen, and other trades including but not limited to plumbers, electricians, exterminators…operating engineers, HVAC, painting, moving and relocation services, and other service providers who provide services necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operations of residences, Essential Activities, and Essential Businesses and Operations.” Hardware and supply stores “that sell electrical, plumbing, and heating material” are also specifically included in this category.
Consequently, persons engaged in all aspects of residential construction may travel to and from jobsites and perform normal services and the Proclamation makes that explicit (See: “Essential Travel”). However, six-foot social distancing and heightened personal hygiene must be observed including a requirement that hand sanitizing products be “readily available for employees”. (See: “Social Distancing Requirements”)
The Proclamation also provides for “Essential Government Functions” to remain open and operational. Specifically, “…all services provided by the County or any municipality…needed to ensure the continuing operation of the government agencies or to provide for or support the health, safety and welfare of the public…” which would include planning, permit and inspection services and well as the Register of Deeds Office. NCHBA has confirmed this morning that inspections will continue throughout Mecklenburg County with “additional safety protocols out this afternoon in writing so we can continue to conduct inspections.”
While home building may continue in Mecklenburg County, at least three other jurisdictions (Pitt and Madison Counties and the Town of Beaufort) have adopted “shelter-in-place” declarations which, according to press reports, do not appear to exempt our industry. This will increase pressure on the Governor for a statewide “shelter-in-place” declaration. NCHBA will continue its efforts with the Governor’s Office to ensure, like the Mecklenburg Proclamation, that home building be explicitly deemed an “essential infrastructure/essential business” should any such declaration be issued.
Finally, NCHBA is aware that other jurisdictions across the state are considering similar orders. We have reached out to all of our local associations and asked them to contact their respective local officials to ensure that residential construction is included as an “essential infrastructure/essential business”.
So, stay tuned and stay safe!
NCHBA Executive Vice President & General Counsel