Under the Dome

Local deregulation bill affects streams, wells

The state legislature on Thursday approved a compromise local-government deregulation bill that includes a number of environmental provisions.

House members who worked on the compromise said they were satisfied with the revised bill as a big improvement over what the Senate had done to the original, simple bill about overgrown vegetation that the House had approved.

“It came back to us from the Senate with bells and whistles, from beehives to riparian buffers and bike lanes,” said Rep. Donny Lambeth, a Republican from Forsyth County.

A number of controversial aspects of the original legislation in House Bill 44 were taken out in the compromise.

One provision proposed to reduce the buffer zones protecting streams from 50 to 30 feet. That provision was dropped. A new provision was added that would allow local governments to impose larger buffers if the state Environmental Management Commission consents.

Also removed in the compromise was a section that would have made it harder for cities to add bike lanes on some roads, giving the state Department of Transportation the authority to reject them.

The bill also now clarifies when local government can require private well owners to connect to public water supplies.

The Senate vote was along party lines, 32-15, except for one senator from each party breaking ranks: Democratic Sen. Ben Clark and Republican Sen. Wesley Meredith, both representing Cumberland County. The House approved it on a vote of 83-25, and sent it to the governor.

A separate and much more extensive deregulation bill has also been the subject of compromise meetings, and is expected to surface next week. House Bill 765 covers a wide range of environmental issues, including the need for air quality monitors, electronics recycling and wetlands protections.