With the state legislature starting up again this week, towns are paying close attention to a bill from last session that would take away towns’ ability to determine most design requirements on homes.
Last month, a General Assembly subcommittee revived House Bill 150, an unpopular bill among many towns that would prevent municipalities from regulating most aesthetic and design elements of one- and two-family housing units.
“(Builders) could build anything that met building code,” said Wendell’s interim Planning Director, David Bergmark.“It could potentially be a square cinderblock house with a square roof.”
The bill, titled Zoning/Design & Aesthetic Controls, prohibits the application of “any zoning and development regulation ordinance relating to building design elements” for houses and duplexes. Exceptions are made for designated historic areas and landmarks, safety concerns and manufactured homes.
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“Building design elements” include, according to the bill, exterior color, building materials and roofing styling. Porches, architectural ornamentation, and location of windows, doors and garage doors are also included.
The law does not prevent regulation of height or size of a home nor its location on a lot. The law does not restrict private covenants, like homeowners association agreements.
In Knightdale, Mayor Russell Killen made it clear this could have a serious freezing effect on development and in broader terms, he said he thinks it’s bad government.
Killen introduced a resolution that officially opposes the legislation to Town Council at last week’s council meeting. Wendell and Zebulon also passed similar resolutions last week.
“If you have one bad kid who overreaches and does something wrong, you don’t punish all the kids,” Killen told Knightdale’s council. “It’s not good parenting and it’s not good government.”
Zebulon officials thought the same thing. According to Town Manager Rick Hardin, Zebulon isn’t concerned about what the state would allow builders to do, because the town doesn’t have ordinances that regulates the things the state legislation would.
Instead, it’s important to the town to reserve that right for the future.
“We don’t see any adverse effects on us currently because we don’t apply any of these types of things on single-family dwellings in town,” Hardin said. “I think the concern is that we just felt like local jurisdictions should be able to have reasonable measures in place to protect and preserve aspects of their town.”
Killen also said the bill would “kill the value of planned developments,” he said. The effect on developments is important in Knightdale and Wendell, because both towns have major housing developments in the works.
Bergmark said because of some other requriements for Wendell Falls, it is likely the development will most likely be protected.
But other, smaller planned communities in the town that also had to halt construction when the housing market nosedived, may face trouble if House Bill 150 passes.
“We have a lot a lot of existing inventory,” he said. “(And) all of those could be subject House Bill 150. It could be a different project after that.”
Bergmark said homeowners who choose developments as an investment expect “a certain amount of design detail is insured.” HB150 takes the decision of what those details are from towns.
The bill will first be considered in the N.C. House of Representatives. If it passed out of the House, it will move to the state Senate for approval.