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League Presses on After Fire; Meyer Gives Update on Activities


Hazmat workers on scene after a March 16 blaze consumed a downtown Raleigh construction site and spread over to League headquarters next door. The scorched David E. Reynolds Building is seen at left. Photo credit: Ben Brown

It's been one week since a massive downtown Raleigh fire displaced the League from its headquarters -- a challenging turn for sure, but one the organization is navigating. You can read about it in this March 21 story from the News & Observer, which also reports on the impacts to our friends at the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, with whom the League shared a roof. The article includes League Executive Director Paul Meyer spreading thanks to first-responders for their unquestionable heroism. "It could have been so much worse," he said.

That response included truly amazing teamwork and cooperation on part of area municipalities that maneuvered to protect Raleigh's outlying areas while the city's firefighters focused on the downtown blaze -- one of the biggest in history there. The Town of Zebulon, for one, dispatched a ladder truck to Raleigh; Wendell sent a pumper and kept watch over both Wendell and Zebulon.

While the fire's aftermath has certainly summoned the League to the contest, with Town Hall Day just ahead (and going on as planned), we're blasting through day by day and will continue to be the resource on which municipalities across North Carolina have depended for more than a century.

The following is a more detailed update from Paul Meyer:

In the aftermath of last week's fire, our League staff is so appreciative of your encouragement and  kind words as we transition to new work spaces. As I said last week, the fire will not change our organization's mission or our dedication to it. Town Hall Day is going on as planned, although please note our communications related to some slight adjustments in logistics and where events will occur. Our insurance operations, publications, advocacy efforts and other services continue.

Some of our staff has transitioned to temporary work space provided by the City of Raleigh, while other staff continues to work remotely from home. We cannot thank the City of Raleigh enough for its help during this time. We hope to have a more long-term temporary work solution in place coming days.

Currently, individual phone lines are not operational. While we work to remedy the situation, you may contact staff via email, which is fully operational. Also, we expect main phone lines – 919-715-4000 and 1-800-228-0986 – to soon be functional and directed to staff members monitoring these lines. Thank you for your patience in regards to contacting staff during this time.

We will keep you up to date as we move on from last week's events. In the meantime, we look forward to seeing many of you at Town Hall Day next week.

Warmest Regards,

Paul Meyer


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Get Pumped for Town Hall Day! Pre-Registration Deadline Extended!

Town Hall Day is Wednesday! And guess what: Pre-registration has been extended until midnight tonight (Friday). Your signup will give you a place among hundreds of fellow municipal officials from across North Carolina for what's sure to be a memorable day of advocacy with legislators in Raleigh.

Please note the location change. As made necessary by last week's fire damage, Town Hall Day's agenda will begin at the N.C. Museum of History, 5 Edenton St., Raleigh. Parking at the Performing Arts Parking Deck (128 W. South St.) will be free, and a "park and ride" shuttle will run continuously. Click here for a Town Hall Day 2017 location map.

This year's Town Hall Day will be the biggest yet. Make sure your voice is heard and your city or town is represented. Town Hall Day will see hundreds of municipal officials from across North Carolina communicating their messages and priorities to General Assembly lawmakers at the Legislative Building, with an agenda of events and speakers including top state officials like Gov. Roy Cooper and House Speaker Tim Moore.

Registered attendees will receive further instructions and details prior to Town Hall Day via email, so be sure to pre-register by midnight.

This crucial day of advocacy for towns and cities also will highlight those municipalities that have uploaded stories to the League's Here We Grow website promoting municipal investments that foster economic growth, with a special treat for those municipalities -- a customized handout featuring their local story. Those stories, and the local investments that help generate jobs and create a great quality of life in North Carolina, will again be a significant part of the day's advocacy.

And if you haven't done so yet, contact League staff or go to the Here We Grow website to put your story up on the site so that your municipality can be featured on this special day. Town Hall Day 2017 will be one for the books -- and it's just ahead!

And don't forget the Town Hall Day app! Just type "NCLM events" into the app search on your smart-device for the download. (Direct links: iTunes; Google Play.) It's your simple, go-to resource for all things Town Hall Day, no matter where you are. You can tap through the day's general info, schedule, list of speakers and more to help you navigate.


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Sen. Wade, Rep. McGrady File Needed E-Notice Legislation

Legislation surfaced in both chambers this week to create standards for cities and counties that choose to publish required public notices on their own government websites, instead of publication in the newspaper. SB 343 / HB 432 Increase Teacher Supplement/Electronic Notice would also authorize, for the first time, the ability for legal notices required for other private-sector transactions to be published electronically, on a county government website, with proceeds benefitting county governments and to be partially spent on paying local teacher supplements. Cities and towns have long supported legislation allowing municipalities to publish required public notices electronically on their own websites, a move that will save taxpayers money and still keep the public informed. We are grateful to the Senate and House sponsors -- Sen. Trudy Wade, Wesley Meredith and Dan Bishop; and Reps. Chuck McGrady, Bill Brawley and John Blust -- for putting forward this proposal and acting on an issue that has lingered too long. Contact: Erin Wynia

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Trio of Bills Focus on Development Fees

A top House leader filed a trio of bills this week addressing development fees that are paid to expand critical infrastructure. Sometimes called impact fees, capacity fees, or facility fees, no matter their name, they're paid by developers to ensure that property-tax payers alone do not pay the full amount for expanding a community's infrastructure, such as water systems and schools. The three bills filed by House Speaker Pro Tem Sarah Stevens each tackle a different facet of the state's current development fee laws:

  • HB 405 Impact Fees/Refund to Homeowners: This bill, addressing a consequence of the recent Carthage court decision, directs any refund of impact fees paid to a city or county to the homeowner who paid any portion of that impact fee, as part of the purchase price of their home.
  • HB 406 Repeal Orange County Impact Fees: This local bill repeals authority Orange County gained nearly 30 years ago to charge development fees that go toward school construction projects.
  • HB 436 Local Government/Regulatory Fees: This proposal eliminates a city or county's ability to charge all types of development fees, unless otherwise authorized by the general laws of the state. Additionally, the bill repeals many related local acts.

The League understands that many cities will face significant fiscal impacts should aspects of these proposals become law, and will work with Rep. Stevens and others to address those impacts. Contact: Erin Wynia


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Provision Hindering Code Enforcement Resurfaces

A much-discussed provision that did not become law last year resurfaced in a House regulatory reform proposal Wednesday. If it becomes law, Section 2.15 of SB 131 Regulatory Reform Act of 2016 would tie the hands of local code enforcement officials, who would have more restricted means to resolve disputes over such violations as encroaching buildings. Ultimately, the provision will lead to more lawsuits as neighbors resort to the courts to settle disputes over violations that a local government cannot enforce. Additionally, it will present cases where landowners who break the law face no punishment for their violations.

The House provision institutes a six-year statute of limitations for enforcement of any local or state land-use regulations, beginning when a violation is "apparent" from a public right-of-way or in plain view from a place to which the public is invited. Within that six years, the proposal shortens the time frame for code enforcement to three years once the local government actually knows of the violation. The proposal contains only one exclusion to this limitation, in the cases of enforcement of dangers to public health or safety. The League thanks Rep. Sam Watford for attempting to offer an amendment to limit the scope of the provision, and will keep working with legislators to improve the language as it works its way through the legislative process. The bill next heads for a hearing in the House Finance Committee. Contact: Erin Wynia


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'First Responders Act' Progresses in House

House Judiciary III Committee members this week voted in favor of a bill with provisions in the spirit of a League advocacy goal to reduce strain on law enforcement officers. A section of HB 181 First Responders Act of 2017 would allow company police or security on site at hospitals to take custody of persons believed to be mentally ill and potentially harmful, until official transportation and placement is arranged. That's a change from the current practice, in which law enforcement officers are the ones taking custody, and are called to hospitals for that purpose. The League's board in October 2016 adopted a goal to support legislation that bolsters the state's mental health and intellectual/developmental disabilities treatment resources, including resources and solutions to lessen the strain on sworn law enforcement officers when providing custody of individuals in crisis. The League appreciates the attention given to this issue by bill sponsors Reps. Harry Warren, Mike Clampitt, Carl Ford and Larry Potts. The House Transportation Committee will hear the bill next. Contact: Sarah Collins

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Bill Tracker: Film Grant Funding and More

Municipal officials are discovering how helpful our online bill-tracker can be to locate and keep up with important legislation moving through the General Assembly. We're steadily adding noteworthy bills to the system with digestible summaries, level of importance, committee assignment, date of last action and sponsor information -- like SB 358 / HB 473 Film & Entertainment Grant Fund Appropriation. The proposal, filed in both chambers this week, would appropriate $55 million to the state's film and entertainment grant program and achieve an advocacy goal set by North Carolina cities and towns. Stay on top of it and other proposals of interest to your town with our bill tracker, found here or under the Legislative Advocacy menu at nclm.org.

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Disaster Recovery Loan Application Deadline Ahead; CDBG Plan Up For Review

Applications are due March 31 for the N.C. Housing Finance Agency's disaster recovery loan pool (which we reported on earlier this month). The aid is intended for the rehabilitation of owner-occupied homes in counties affected by the disasters of 2016. The $15 million available comes via the Essential Single-Family Rehabilitation Loan Pool for disaster recovery, and local governments may be eligible applicants. Forms and guidelines are available here. "Successful applicants will be awarded a set-aside of $150,000 for the rehabilitation of eligible units, with the option of receiving additional funds through the loan pool on a first-come, first-served basis," the agency said. In other news, the N.C. Department of Commerce has informed us that the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Action Plan will be released for public comment next week. Interested parties will find details at www.nccommerce.com.