Last Wednesday the Boone Town Council held a Special Called Meeting to discuss the potential local impact of House Bill 291 regarding setting new deadlines for commercial building plan reviews and House Bill 401/Senate Bill 349 regarding the transfer of local control to the state for local zoning decisions involving residential zoning districts.
The full text of the statement is as follows:
April 1, 2021
On March 31, 2021 the Boone Town Council held a Special Called Meeting to discuss the
potential local impact of House Bill 291 regarding setting new deadlines for commercial
building plan reviews and House Bill 401/Senate Bill 349 regarding the transfer of local
control to the state for local zoning decisions involving residential zoning districts. The
overall impacts of these two bills were discussed and in a unanimous 5-0 decision the Boone
Town Council voted to adopt a resolution opposing HB 291 and House Bill401/Senate Bill
349 due to the negative impacts that they would have on the Town of Boone and our
neighborhoods. Through their actions, the Boone Town Council choose to support and
protect our community’s neighborhoods and to protect citizens of the town from being
forced to subsidize development. A review of the proposed bills can be found below and a
signed copy of the adopted resolution can be found attached.
House Bill 291
House Bill 291, which is pending in the North Carolina General Assembly would force
municipalities to complete an “initial plan review” of commercial development plans
initially sealed by a “design professional,” without regard to their complexity, deficiencies,
or impacts of human health and safety, within 15 days, and issue permits within 30 days of
the application for development unless additional information is requested within the first
15 days and provides that if within the initial 15 day period, if additional information is
requested by the town, permits must be granted within 15 days of the submission of
additional information or the developer may retain a “third party firm” to review its plans at
the expense of the municipality and must issue “all necessary permits” for the development
within 72 hours of approval by that third party.
In order to comply with HB 291, the Town of Boone would have to greatly expand its
planning department by hiring additional staff, which would force an increase in property
taxes or a decrease in other services and HB 291 unfairly puts the burden on taxpayers to
pay for the private development permitting by commercial developers. HB 291 essentially
redirects long-extant governmental functions now performed by local governments to
protect the public and to allow for the orderly growth of communities through zoning, to
private and unspecified engineering or architectural firms who may have conflicts of
interest, with no recourse for decisions which may violate local zoning ordinances.
House Bill 401/Senate Bill 349
House Bill 401/Senate Bill 349 which is also pending in the North Carolina General
Assembly, and would force municipalities to allow duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes and
townhouses into all residential zones, including all low-density zoning districts, for the
stated purpose of expanding housing opportunities in towns but SB 349 exempts residential
areas in which private restrictive covenants apply, thus differentiating between sub-divisions
such as gated communities and the neighborhoods without such protections, in essence
protecting the wealthy by exposing middle and low income residents to incompatible development dictated by state government. SB 349 would essentially eliminate single-family zoning statewide.
Although SB 349 has reportedly been endorsed by “affordable housing” proponents as a
way to increase supply and decrease costs, in actuality there is nothing in the bill which
actually controls costs. While SB 349 hides behind the term “affordable housing” while
serving as a radical one-size-fits all approach to zoning that strips the authority of local
governments and eliminates input from local residents.
History has shown us when low density neighborhoods in Boone have been made available
for higher density housing, existing single-family homes have often been demolished to
allow more intense types of housing, destroying the character of Boone which has made it
attractive, but also with the unintended result that rental prices have actually increased as
low-density housing disappears.
SB 349 likewise mandates the allowance of “one accessory dwelling,” which can consist of
a duplex, on each lot on which there is a single-family residence, circumventing all usual
approval processes such as conditional district zoning, and trumping all local parking
requirements and utility approval protocols without regard to the impacts of a potential
tripling of density.
SB 349 has the potential to fundamentally change most neighborhoods in Boone and
accelerate the disruption of the lives of its permanent citizens, as out-of-town investors and
AirBnB type operators continue to buy up low density housing stock.
SB 349 allows deficient applications to nevertheless vest development rights, undermining
the ability of local jurisdictions to react to changes within their communities and by using
terms which are undefined and vague, makes expensive future litigation likely to create
certainty around the meaning of its terms.
SB 349 shifts financial responsibility for a developer’s attorney’s fees onto the municipality
whether or not the town’s decisions have been made in good faith in a manner seeking to
protect the common good.
SB 349 prohibits a municipality from even examining a traffic impact analysis which has
satisfied the North Carolina Department of Transportation, whether or not the municipality
believes that the traffic generated by the project poses a danger to public safety and the
ratification by the Department is prudent.
SB 349, under the guise of creating affordable housing, is actually a usurpation of local
zoning authority and if passed, will undermine the long-term stability of the Town of Boone
for its permanent residents, betraying the promises of zoning which residents have relied
upon in making their most important financial investments, the purchase of their homes.
The resolution passed by the council requests the General Assembly not pass either bill, and if passed, that Governor Cooper veto the bills. The resolution directs the town manager employ the town's lobbyists to work to prevent passage of the bills.