It’s unlikely the state will lift its light-rail spending cap or dramatically change agritourism rules, local legislators say, but there is bipartisan support for treating some teen offenders as juveniles.
North Carolina now is one of two states that prosecute all 16- and 17-year-olds as adult offenders. While Orange and Durham counties have created their own diversion programs to give nonviolent teen offenders a second chance, the push is to raise the statewide age for trying teens as adults to 18.
There also might be legislative support for letting farms of 10 acres or less access the present-use value program, Democratic state Sen. Valerie Foushee told the Orange County Board of Commissioners this week. The program values farm land based on its use – instead of the market rate – resulting in a lower tax bill.
Foushee and Democratic state Reps. Verla Insko and Graig Meyer also addressed two recent bills while discussing the county’s legislative goals.
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HB406 would end impact fees that support Orange County schools construction, while HB436 would stop Carrboro, Chapel Hill, and Orange and Chatham counties, among others, from levying development fees.
The regional Triangle J Council of Governments has estimated HB436 could cost 11 communities a total of $28.9 million each year. However, Meyer and Insko said they expect opposition to HB436. The targeted counties are represented by 22 Republicans and 16 Democrats in the General Assembly.
Surry County Republican Rep. Sarah Stevens, who introduced both bills, is the only sponsor for HB406, and one of two Republicans backing HB436.
“That’s probably a good sign in that there’s not a whole bunch of people signing onto these and saying, yes, we support this,” Meyer said.
State campaign records show Stevens has received donations from real estate and construction interests that oppose impact fees, including the N.C. Realtors and N.C. Home Builders political action committees. She and her husband operate S&E Properties, a Mt. Airy real estate leasing and rental company.
Insko said HB406 may stem from a recent change in the county's impact fees and the potential effect on a Chapel Hill apartment redevelopment project. The fee for the Grove Park project rose from roughly $300,000 in 2016 to over $1 million this year. County staff said the developer appealed but hasn’t followed up.
Impact fees contributed $2.8 million for school construction debt last year – about 2 cents on the county’s tax rate. The revised fees charge a higher rate for new three- and four-bedroom apartments but cut the fees for single-family homes.
That reflects a boom in new apartments attractive to families with students, Deputy County Manager Travis Myren said.
The county reimburses fees paid on new affordable housing. Other developers can appeal their fees if they meet certain requirements. Northwood Ravin, for instance, was grandfathered in under last year’s schedule for the 55-acre Carraway Village mixed-use project on Eubanks Road.
The Orange County commissioners also asked legislators to:
▪ Restore election laws affected by the 2013 Voter ID law, which is facing a court challenge
▪ Clearly define a bona fide farm as one that raises livestock or crops before expanding into agritourism
▪ Pursue more state money for local transportation projects and eliminate a 10 percent cap on light rail spending