The General Assembly returned to town on Wednesday for a two-day session to consider several legislative issues. Of particular significance to NCHBA were two bills which passed the General Assembly during its long session, which ended in June, and which were vetoed by Governor Cooper-SB 16 (Business & Agency Reg. Reform Act of 2017) and HB 56 (Amend Environmental Laws). On Wednesday, the General Assembly overrode the veto of HB 56 and followed suit with a veto override of SB 16 on Thursday. Consequently, these bills became law.
Since assuming control of both legislative bodies in 2011, the GOP majority has made the yearly passage of one or more regulatory reform acts one of its top priorities. Since unnecessary regulation has a highly negative impact on the affordability of housing, this topic is one of great interest to NCHBA. In addition to successfully advocating for the passage of HB 252 (Building Code Regulatory Reform Act of 2017) during the long session, your legislative team worked closely with legislative leaders to help craft and lobby for the passage of both SB 16 and HB 56.
You will be interested in the following provisions from SB 16:
Wastewater System Permit Extension-Normally, on-site wastewater improvement permits issued by local health departments expire after five (5) years if no construction activity takes place on the lot. A significant number of previously issued permits expired across the state because of the lack of construction activity during the Great Recession. Now that construction activity is on the upswing, builders are forced to incur the unnecessary expense of reapplying for new improvement permit even though conditions on the site have not changed.
Section 19 of this act is intended to remedy this situation. It provides that any “improvement permit issued by a local health department from January 1, 2000, to January 1, 2015, which has not been acted on and would otherwise have expired, shall remain valid until January 1, 2020, without penalty, unless there are changes in the hydraulic flows or wastewater characteristics from the original health department evaluation. Permits are transferrable with ownership of the property. Permits shall retain the site, soil evaluations, and construction conditions of the original permit.”
While local health departments mounted strong opposition to this provision, the General Assembly correctly understood that its passage would help spur residential construction, create jobs, and put people into housing without any harm to the environment. Any lack of revenue from the reissuance of improvement permits will be more than offset by the benefit local jurisdictions will receive from an expanded tax base arising from new housing being constructed and those houses occupied. This provision will be particularly useful to spur housing development in rural counties. NCHBA thanks Senator Tom McInnis (R-Richmond) for his leadership and hard work on this issue.
Clarify Stormwater Laws-Under current law, stormwater runoff rules and programs may not require private property owners to install new, or increased, stormwater controls for preexisting development or redevelopment activities that do not remove, or decrease, existing stormwater controls. Section 8 of the act provides that when a preexisting development is redeveloped, increased stormwater controls may ONLY be required for the amount of impervious surface being created that exceeds the amount of impervious surface that existed before the redevelopment.
Also, under a prior coastal stormwater rule, a State stormwater permit was required if development exceeds 10,000 square feet and exceeds 12% built-upon area. On January 1, 2017, the Environmental Management Commission (EMC) adopted a new coastal stormwater rule which eliminated the 10,000-square foot threshold (making a State stormwater permit required if the development exceeds the 12% built-upon area only). Section 9 of the act restores the 10,000-square foot requirement and, thus, requires both elements before triggering a permit requirement.
Studies of Interest to NCHBA–Sections 10 and 11 require the Building Code Council to perform two studies and report back to the General Assembly by December 1, 2017. The first requires the Council to review the electrical safety requirements for swimming pools and the second tasks the Council to review under what circumstances it would be appropriate to use non-grade stamped lumber in construction projects. Section 13 requires a legislative panel (Environmental Review Commission) to study the State’s sedimentation and erosion control program, and locally-delegated programs, to determine how the programs “could be more efficient and streamlined.” Finally, the Legislative Research Commission is to study the creation of a process for the mediation and arbitration of disputes between homeowners’ associations and their residents.
Here are the items of interest to NCHBA from HB 56:
Coastal Storm Damage Mitigation Fund–Of particular interest to our coastal builders is a provision which would establish a coastal storm damage mitigation fund that would be used for beach nourishment, artificial dunes, and other projects to alleviate damage caused by coastal storms.
Riparian Buffer Tax Exclusion Study-This provision directs the legislature’s Fiscal Research Division to study the implementation of riparian buffer tax exclusion from local property taxes. Several members of the General Assembly have expressed concern that riparian buffer requirements essentially constitute a taking of private land from the owner. They believe that if the government is to restrict the use of privately held land, at the very least, the landowners should be exempt from the tax liability of the land within the buffer. The study will analyze and estimate the value of land that is currently restricted in use because of riparian buffer requirements.
Pursuant to the adjournment resolution adopted on Thursday, the General Assembly will next convene on January 10, 2018, for a session limited to specific matters (e.g., judicial redistricting, constitutional amendments, any matter still in conference from the long session, etc.). All other eligible issues (e.g., including bills which have passed one body by the long session’s cross-over deadline) will be considered during the “short session” scheduled for May 16, 2018