Senate delays debate on housing design bill

aspecht@newsobserver.comApril 24, 2013 

— The state Senate on Wednesday unexpectedly delayed discussion on a bill stripping local governments of the power to regulate residential housing based on design or appearance.

House Bill 150 prohibits towns from withholding building permits based on a builder’s design elements such as his building materials or garage size. Its rapid progress through the state House drew the scorn of local mayors and the N.C. League of Municipalities.

In March, the House lawmakers voted 94-22 to pass bill after a 45-minute debate. On Wednesday, before debate could begin, Sen. Tom Apodaca motioned to remove the bill from the calendar and send it back to the Rules Committee.

Supporters of the bill were caught off guard by the Henderson Republican’s move.

Cady Thomas, director of government affairs for the N.C. Association of Realtors, which supports the bill, said she thought her organization had “worked the floor enough” to help the bill pass easily.

“I don’t know what happened,” Thomas said.

It’s unclear why Apodaca referred the bill back to the Rules Committee, of which he is the chairman. Attempts to reach Apodaca for comment were unsuccessful.

Sen. Jeff Tarte, a sponsor of the Senate’s version of the bill, speculated it might be hung up on a technicality.

“Maybe we got something wrong language-wise,” Tarte said. “Or maybe a municipality stepped in.”

The bill exempts areas deemed historic by the state as well as private covenants or other contractual agreements, including those adopted by homeowners associations. But town government leaders have argued it might endanger property values of homes in older neighborhoods not protected by homeowners associations, such as three of Raleigh’s older neighborhoods: Cameron Park, South Park and North Boylan.

Knightdale Mayor Russell Killen, an opponent of the bill, was encouraged by the unexpected delay. But, until the bill is officially dead, Knightdale will push forward with plans to rezone much of its town.

“Our residents expect us to do something protect their property values,” Killen said.

The bill is not expected to return to the Senate floor this week.

Specht: 919-829-4826

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