Since the advent of the alleged “conservative revolution” in Raleigh, we’ve gotten a lot of lip-service about “local control” and reducing Raleigh’s influence on people’s lives.
We’ve got a Republican-controlled General Assembly. Moore County’s county and municipal governments are all pretty much GOP-controlled as well.
Recent events in Raleigh appear to have stirred up a Republican family feud:
Moore County and its 11 municipalities are presenting a unified front in opposing what they call the N.C. General Assembly’s “assault on local government” through a number of bills that could limit their abilities to manage growth and development.
A resolution drafted by the county — at the behest of several municipal leaders — cites an array of bills pending in the General Assembly that “are enabling legislators to micromanage the governance of all 100 counties and 522 municipalities” in the state.
The bills, all at various stages of the legislative process, would impose new limits on local governments from regulating matters ranging from tree removal to minimum housing size.
Municipal leaders believe these kinds of decisions are best made at the local level — closest to the people most affected.
“Local government leaders know and understand the needs of their communities best,” the resolution states. “They are more accessible to their residents. They hold public hearings, and they prioritize their communities first. All of these factors enable counties and towns to make the best decisions for their distinctive communities in which they serve.”
Town and county leaders say some of the bills now pending in either the House or Senate would, among other things:
* Prohibit them from regulating the minimum square footage of homes.
* Extend the tax exemption to homebuilders from three to five years for unsold houses and restrict a town’s ability to make a builder clean up a dilapidated site that violates an ordinance.
* Roll back reasons a municipal code enforcement officer may consider a building unsafe.
* Make the award of attorneys’ fees automatic rather than at a judge’s discretion if a local government violates state statutes, but not the other way around.
* Allow a property owner to bypass a local Board of Adjustment and go straight to court with an appeal and allow a builder to continue working on a project while challenging a local decision.
Commissioners’ Chairman Frank Quis said Thursday that he hopes the county’s state representatives will listen to their concerns.
“They are chosen to represent our interest in the N.C. General Assembly, and support our local government in meeting the citizens’ needs,” he said. “I want to acknowledge and thank our legislators for their efforts on our behalf in the past. Let’s ask that they do their part and keep local government local.” […]
Hmm. Sounds like its return-on-investment time for all the $$$$ those realtor and home-builder PACs dumped on legislative incumbents in 2018. (Um, PRIMARIES, anyone? Anyone? )
[…] Alarm bells were first sounded weeks ago when Republican state Sen. Tom McInnis of Rockingham, who represents Moore County, and several of his colleagues introduced legislation that would prohibit towns and counties from regulating tree removal on private property without permission of the General Assembly. Though McInnis announced a week ago that he was withdrawing the legislation, local leaders are mistrustful that it might resurface.
That bill generated strong opposition from the N.C. League of Municipalities and the N.C. Association of County Commissioners. But several statewide groups lined up in support, including the N.C. Homebuilders Association, N.C. Realtors and those supporting property rights. They argued that local tree ordinances hinder development.
Foxfire Village Mayor Nick McCue, one of the principal architects behind this joint resolution, asserted in a recent guest opinion column in The Pilot that the “perpetrators” in this “assault on the power and authority of local governments” is both the General Assembly and those special interest groups.
Efforts by the towns and county to fight these measures in the wake of the tree bill debate have gained momentum after local officials starting compiling information on these other bills. It has struck a nerve throughout the county and led to a considerable backlash against the county’s legislators.
“There are 11 municipalities and Moore County, and all 12 boards have agreed to this resolution.” said Aberdeen Mayor Robbie Farrell. “If you think about it, this goes from Pinebluff in the south to Robbins in the north and everything in between — and when all 12 agree to the same resolution, that means something … This affects all of North Carolina.”
Aberdeen Town Commissioner Ken Byrd said this is “literally reaching into the pockets of municipalities.”
“If we allow this to continue there will be no need for county and city commissioners because Raleigh will be in charge,” he said. “It is time for us to stand up and say ‘no.’ Our elected officials need to understand they need to come talk to people instead of just introducing bills with hopes we won’t say anything or won’t see it until it slips through.
“Before they start making resolutions they need to come talk to us, get our thumbprint on it. Don’t just write it and hope we will approve of it.”
Byrd also agrees with McCue’s assessment about these bills being “pushed by special interest groups working in the Raleigh area trying to get our elected officials up there to force things down our throats.”
State Rep. Jamie Boles, whose district includes most of the county, said Friday that these are statewide bills and not targeting Moore County and that some of them could ultimately be changed or may not be enacted.
“These are public bills reflecting municipalities overreaching their authority and affecting property rights,” Boles said in a brief telephone interview to respond to the concerns by the county and the towns. “You will have a lot of conversation about these issues and whether municipalities are overstepping their boundaries.”
Boles said he would not commit one way or the other on how he might vote on any of these bills until they are heard in the General Assembly. […]
(Wow. *Talk about a profile in courage …*)
[…] He said he welcomes input from anyone, including the towns and the county, adding that he has heard from Quis and Pinehurst Mayor Nancy Fiorillo.
“We will hear a lot more about these issues as these bills are considered,” he said.
McInnis declined to address the larger debate, saying that he would speak only to the bill that is under his name that would restrict the regulation of tree removal.
He declined to respond to the contention by the county and its towns that the General Assembly is usurping local government authority.[…]
That’s because he KNOWS they are right. There’s ANOTHER ONE bought-and-paid for by lobbyists acting like a deer caught in headlights. (I’m sure I’m not the only one who remembers all of those Homebuilder and Realtor PAC-funded fliers that bombarded our mailboxes here in Moore County during the 2018 elections to save McInnis’s hide. )
[…] McInnis said bills cited under his name ”are all about jobs and fostering economic development.”
Yeah. But the ‘economic development’ was contained to the parameters of HIS WALLET.
[…] McInnis said when questions were raised about his bill limiting tree removal, it was amended.
“We listened to all of our constituents, both those in support and those in opposition,” he said. “We tried to reach a reasonable balance.”
McInnis said that he was no longer pursuing the bill after it was apparent a consensus could not be reached.
[…] In December, McInnis hosted a meeting of local officials to get their input on what they’d like to see from the General Assembly. Pinehurst Mayor Pro Tem John Bouldry said these types of bills are “completely counter” to their input.
“The common thread of all of these bills in the House and Senate is the lack of local control,” he said. “The disappointment for me is … all the municipalities said the pendulum has swung too far. Too much control is in Raleigh.”
McCue wrote that the legislation dealing with appeals of local zoning decisions would make it easier for large developers “with financial backing to bully small towns with limited resources to back down.”
Mayor Nancy Fiorillo said she initially felt the language in the resolution was not strong enough, though she later said she was fine with it.
“I am madder than this,” she said, adding that some of the things the legislature wants to do is “just scary.”
Fiorillo suggested the village employ a similar approach being taken by Foxfire Village to encourage their residents to contact McInnis and state Reps. Jamie Boles and Allen McNeill. She asked that the village put the representatives’ contact information on its website and that the village provide that information to representative of the various neighborhood groups through the Neighborhood Advisory Committee.
McCue said Thursday that the time to act is now since the legislature is moving “fast and furious” on these matters.
“We’re trying to get our folks energized,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of money, but we can let them know how we feel. That is where the power is. They need to hear from our folks that they want to have some say in things that affect them locally.”
Southern Pines Mayor Pro Tem Jim Simeon echoed sentiment that the “General Assembly is taking action that would prevent local communities from operating in a way they felt is appropriate for us to operate.”
The Whispering Pines Village Council had called a special meeting last Tuesday over the tree-cutting bill, before McInnis announced he was pulling it from consideration. The council voted to join Pinehurst, Aberdeen and Southern Pines, as well as other town boards, to adopt the county’s resolution and tacked on an addendum of its own.
“I would suggest in our resolution that there be a broad statement that we are opposed to any legislation that reduces the authority of municipalities,” said Mayor Pro Tem Bob Zschoche. “In a close reading of some of the other (bills), my reaction is that they could potentially be even more harmful to the village than this tree thing … At least one of these others would totally, in my opinion, gut the village’s ability to manage itself because it takes away land-use authorities. We might as well just take the land development ordinance and toss it out.”