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League Bulletin

June 10, 2016

Town Hall Day 2016 was a huge success for municipalities across North Carolina, and we've prepared a special video recap of the event's activities. They included an issues briefing with League staff, talks with legislative leaders, panels of top state officials including Gov. Pat McCrory and plenty of positive communication about how municipalities are helping the state grow. Click here to view the video, led off by League 1st Vice President Bob Matheny, Mayor of Zebulon. Scroll down for complete coverage of Town Hall Day 2016, and thanks to all who participated.

Donning League-green ties and scarves, more than 500 municipal officials from across North Carolina converged in Raleigh on Wednesday for one of the most successful Town Hall Days in the books -- one that brought out Gov. Pat McCrory, House Speaker Tim Moore and other powerful guests who heard the League's message directly from membership. The annual day of municipal advocacy at the Legislative Building -- under some of the prettiest weather all season -- saw local leaders make positive connections with their House and Senate delegates in discussions over issues important to great hometowns of all sizes. While individual cities and towns had the chance to talk about specific local concerns or projects with their representatives, the overarching theme was "what municipal government brings to the state of North Carolina, how they help the state economically and are just a vital asset to the state," said League 1st Vice President Bob Matheny, Mayor of Zebulon. "So there was a lot of great representation, and I believe they (General Assembly legislators) heard what we had to say."

Sen. Joyce Krawiec meets with town leaders from Lewisville and Clemmons, part of the district she represents at the N.C. General Assembly. Face-to-face meetings with legislators were a big part of Town Hall Day. All photos: Ben Brown

Legislators, at face-to-face meetings with local leaders, heard that North Carolina's diverse municipalities account for 79 percent of all taxable property in the state, 80 percent of all jobs, and 75 percent of all retail sales. They heard that cities and towns are the engines of our state's growing economy, with investments by cities and towns helping to fuel that growth. Subsequently, economic development and job creation end up being the top priorities to maintain that momentum. It was important that municipal leaders came prepared with specific data points from their locales to show lawmakers how local investments matter to that shared mission. For one, Elkin directly invested and administratively supported grant applications totaling $1.5 million toward renovating a historic tobacco warehouse called The Liberty. The tax value ended up quadrupling at the site that now houses a wine shop, restaurant, book store, meeting space and banquet hall.

League Executive Director Paul Meyer welcoming the hundreds of municipal officials who turned out for Town Hall Day 2016.

Town Hall Day 2016 began at the Quorum Center in downtown Raleigh with legislative-issues briefings from 1st Vice President Matheny and League staff before teams of town officials shuttled to the Legislative Building to meet with their legislators and tour the facilities where state laws are made. The afternoon kicked off with League 2nd Vice President Michael Lazarra, Mayor Pro Tem of Jacksonville, who introduced a packed auditorium to House Speaker Tim Moore for an update and audience questions focused on the state budget and other legislative matters. Rep. John Torbett, a chairman of the House Transportation Committee, followed and told local officials that he doesn't see transportation solutions as a partisan game, but rather one of cooperation and communication between local and state governments. After a popular ice cream social, Town Hall Day-goers filled an auditorium at the N.C. Museum of History to hear Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina CEO Christopher Chung, introduced by League Board Member Willliam Pitt of the Washington City Council. Chung told cities that real estate availability is the key to recruiting business, and that sufficient inventory is vital in order to compete.

Left to right: Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod, Cary Council Member Jennifer Robinson, Gov. Pat McCrory, DEQ Sec. Donald van der Vaart, Commerce Department Chief of Staff Cecilia Holden.

Chung's comments about business success and partnership were the perfect intro for the next, distingushed slate of panelists -- Gov. Pat McCrory; Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Donald van der Vaart; Assistant Secretary for Veterans Affairs James Prosser; Department of Commerce Chief of Staff Cecilia Holden; and Department of Transportation Secretary Nick Tennyson. "Right now North Carolina's economic recovery is the fastest and greatest economic recovery in the United States of America, as of today, in the last three years.... And a lot of it was due to feedback from you," Gov. McCrory said. He added that travel and tourism dollars "are doing extremely well this year, too." The governor also thanked the League for its support of the Connect NC bond package that voters overwhelmingly approved this year. The package includes $309.5 million for improvements to local water and sewer systems -- crucial for supporting not only health, but also business growth. "You're going to start feeling the impact of those bonds," Gov. McCrory said.

House Speaker Tim Moore updates League members on state budget progress and fields audience questions about legislative matters. 

The success of Town Hall Day, which concluded with a reception at the Museum of History, was due to the amazing attendance of League members and the participation of its guests. The League would like to thank the hundreds of municipal officials from across the state who traveled to Raleigh to deliver a unified message. The League would also like to thank Gov. McCrory, Speaker Moore and all other state officials who donated their time to the League's membership.

Read news stories generated by Town Hall Day here, here and here.

Tweaks to certain land-use and public records laws highlighted the regulatory reforms of interest to cities and towns in this year's first House regulatory reform bill, introduced on Wednesday. Coming two weeks after the Senate debuted its annual regulatory reform package, the House bill, SB 303 Regulatory Reform Act of 2016, received two committee hearings this week and appeared poised for a full chamber vote next week. If your municipality has concerns about any provisions in this bill, please contact your legislators over the weekend to inform them of the effects.

While House members will likely add more sections to the bill via floor amendments, so far the provisions of most interest to municipalities include:

  • Rezoning. By operation of law, makes any zoning amendment also a comprehensive plan amendment. In the case of a unified development ordinance, any vote to a zoning ordinance would, by operation of law, also serve as an amendment to the UDO. (Section 2.4)
  • Subdivision changes. Exempts from subdivision controls (except for recording a plat) any subdivisions of land greater than five acres into three-or-less lots. Also exempts from all subdivision controls those subdivisions done in accordance with the terms of a probated will or the state's intestate succession laws. (Section 2.5)
  • Land use violations/statute of limitations. Institutes a three-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. Contains one exclusion to this limitation, in the cases of enforcement of dangers to public health or safety. (Section 2.6)
  • Public records. Allows public agencies to exclusively fulfill public records responsibilities by making public records or computer databases available online in a downloadable format. This provision may conflict with current law, which requires agencies to produce records in any format in which they exist, upon request. (Section 2.11)

Additionally, the House bill was amended in committee to include a study of the North Carolina Building Codes (Sec. 2.15). The N.C. Association of Fire Chiefs has expressed concern about the study as it relates to fire inspections.

Like the Senate regulatory reform bill, the House bill also removed reporting requirements for state agencies and local governments, including a recent requirement for cities and towns to tell the state about certain engineering plan review processes. The Senate took further action on its bill this week, amending it in ways that do not affect cities and towns. The Senate calendared its bill for a vote Monday night. Contact: Erin Wynia

In an attempt to balance concerns about transparency and privacy, a House committee this week approved new language regarding the release of law enforcement recordings -- including those from body-worn cameras. HB 972 Law Enforcement Recordings/No Public Record now addresses any audio and video recordings of a law enforcement agency, with some exclusion, and makes it clear that these recordings are neither a public record nor a personnel record. The proposed legislation then provides a detailed framework for when that recording may be viewed or released and to whom, providing statutory guidance to law enforcement officials and courts.

This new proposal updates study committee-recommended language and, as before, does not mandate use of body-worn cameras. The League thanks committee members and bill sponsors for their thoughtful consideration of a complicated topic. The bill will next be heard by the House Finance Committee before being voted on by the full House. Read more here and here. Contact: Sarah Collins

A new study has found Raleigh among the best metro markets in the country for millennials to achieve the dream of homeownership. Millennials nationally have made up the largest share of buyers for three consecutive years, according to the National Association of Realtors, whose recent research has found greater Raleigh as one of the 10 best bets when factoring in existing millennial population, job growth and lower qualifying income levels needed for home purchases. According to the group's report, big cities like New York and Los Angeles are a first-choice for many millennials, but pose a challenge when it comes to affordability. Meanwhile, several "middle-tier" cities like Raleigh that are experiencing strong growth offer the young age group a feasible option. Raleigh and the surrounding area was chosen alongside cities like Austin, Texas; Charleston, S.C.; Portland, Ore.; and Washington, D.C. “An overwhelming majority of young renters recently said they eventually want to buy a home,” said Lawrence Yun, the association's chief economist. “As long as new and existing-home supply keeps up to meet demand and holds prices from rising too quickly, these identified areas are poised to lead the way in helping millennials realize their American dream of becoming a homeowner.” Click here for details from the study.