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From the Trust Perspective: Land-use training for a complicated subject 

by League Associate Director Risk Management Services Bob Haynes

Challenges to land-use decisions can lead to costly and timeconsuming litigation. Land-use decision making can be complicated, and inevitably there are a number of rules and laws that must be followed. Within our property and liability pool, we have seen several instances where litigation ended up proving costly. 

Here are two examples: 

  • A car dealership made a request to build a large facility. As the request moved forward, neighborhood citizens complained about potential lighting issues (among other things), causing the council to deny the request. A suit was subsequently filed, and while the city ultimately won the case, the cost of defense was substantial. There is an old insurance axiom that states, “You can go broke winning.” While that did not apply here, we saw the potential. 
  • Homeowners filed suit claiming that the city prevented them from making repairs to their vacation cottage, which had previously been condemned. Again, litigation costs were substantial. 

As a result, in February 2013, the Board of Trustees for Property and Liability Insurance Trust (Interlocal Risk Financing Fund of NC, administered by the League) agreed to partner with the UNC School of Government to begin building some land use training modules for use by both elected and appointed officials. Steven Lee, our director of claims, has worked closely with the faculty to develop the 14 training modules. 

Topics were initially chosen based on litigation that we experienced on behalf of the participants in our insurance trust. Subsequently, the training modules evolved into an extensive training tool on the subject of land use, which the School of Government now incorporates into its curriculum. It is now available to not just trust participants, but to any local government. As you may know, David Owens and Adam Lovelady are both highly regarded professors on this subject matter. 

These training modules are available for sale from the School of Government bookstore, but also are available for use free of charge to those that participate in our Insurance Trust. It is as simple as getting login credentials to access these and other training programs hosted by our training partner, First Net Learning. 

The topic subject matter covers: 

  1. Introduction to Land-Use Decisions 
  2. Vested Rights 3. Conducting and Evidentiary Hearing 
  3. Making Quasi-Judicial Decisions 
  4. Variances 
  5. Interpretations and Appeals 
  6. Process for Ordinance Adoption and Amendments 
  7. Exactions 
  8. Spot Zoning 
  9. Special Use Permits 
  10. Land-Use Regulation of Group Homes 

Later this year, the following subject areas are expected to be added: 

    12. First Amendment and Regulation of Adult Uses 
    13. Subdivisions and Plat Review 
    14. Conditional Zoning 

Whether a member of the insurance trust or not, we hope you will take this opportunity to assist your newly elected officials and planning board members in understanding proper procedure in planning and conducting land use in your municipalities.